Football

China move for Rooney?

Agent in talks with Chinese clubs, Mourinho says United captain's future in his own hands

Wayne Rooney's agent Paul Stretford is in China to see if he can negotiate a deal for the England captain to leave Manchester United, according to reports.

A month on from becoming United's all-time top-scorer, speculation is growing that the 31-year-old could leave Old Trafford for pastures new, with big-spending Chinese clubs widely linked with a move for the player.

Reports in several national newspapers yesterday suggest the forward could even head to the Far East before the Chinese Super League transfer window shuts next Tuesday, but Press Association Sport understands an exit by then is highly unlikely.

Guangzhou Evergrande, Beijing Guoan, Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian are said to be among those interested in the United captain.

British media have reported that he could earn up to US$1 million (S$1.4m) a week, making him the world's best-paid player.

Jose Mourinho surprisingly said ahead of the second leg of the Europa League last-32 tie in St Etienne that the future was in his skipper's hands.

"You'll have to ask him," the manager said before yesterday morning's (Singapore time) 1-0 win, which saw United - without Rooney - advance 4-0 on aggregate.

"You have to ask him.

"Of course I can't guarantee (he will be here). I can't guarantee that I'm here next week, how can I guarantee that a player is here next season?

"What I can guarantee is that if Wayne one day leaves the club, it is not because I want him to leave the club. That's the only thing I can guarantee.

"I would never push - or try to push - a legend of this club to another destiny."

Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Michael Carrick are likely to be unavailable for Sunday's League Cup final against Southampton, but Mourinho's main frustration after yesterday morning's win was the Football Association's FA Cup scheduling.

Despite this weekend's Wembley date looming large, and boasting a 3-0 first-leg lead in France, the Portuguese plumped for a strong line-up yesterday morning.

Mkhitaryan's deft touch made sure of their progress to the last-16 draw but it came at a cost for United - and not just because Eric Bailly was sent off in the second half.

Match-winner Mkhitaryan limped off after 25 minutes with a hamstring issue and veteran midfielder Carrick sustained a second-half calf complaint, putting both players' hopes of facing Southampton on Sunday in jeopardy.

The injuries compounded doubts over defender Phil Jones and Rooney.

Worries over the quartet's availability for the final against Southampton appeared less of an annoyance than the announcement just before kick-off that the FA Cup quarter-final with Chelsea will be on March 13 (Monday), sandwiched between their Europa League last-16 first and second legs.

Mourinho was perplexed by the decision to announce the date before today's European draw and took a shot at the organisers, as well as a swipe at rivals Manchester City after their much-changed side last season lost 5-1 at Chelsea in the FA Cup.

Asked if he was worried the FA Cup scheduling would hinder his chances of progress, Mourinho said: "Of course and I feel really surprised that the decision is made before our draw in Europe.

"Because in this moment nobody knows where we play, nobody knows where the first and second matches are.

"Imagine we play Chelsea on Monday and then we have to go to the second match in Europe in Russia, Turkey or Greece.

"I think once more the interests, they go in front of the clubs and English football's interests, and nobody cares about it." 
- PA SPORT