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Manchester United dismiss Rooney exit talk

ESPN staff
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Wayne Rooney was benched against West Bromwich Albion © PA Photos
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Manchester United have dismissed claims they will sell Wayne Rooney during the January transfer window as "nonsense'', after a number of newspapers reported that the England striker could be set to leave Old Trafford following a bust-up with Sir Alex Ferguson.

Rooney was left on the bench by Ferguson for Saturday's Premier League clash with West Brom, and only introduced 19 minutes from the end of the 2-2 draw.

Even then, he was consigned to the left wing, leading to more intense speculation about the 24-year-old's relationship with Ferguson, especially following the striker's midweek revelation that he has not been injured this season.

Ferguson had previously justifed Rooney's recent absences against Sunderland and Valencia by insisting he was suffering from an ankle injury, but when asked about the injury after England's draw with Montenegro, he replied: "No, I've had no ankle problem all season.''

He repeated his denial when asked the question for a second time. Then when asked "Why did Alex Ferguson say you had?'', Rooney laughed and replied: "I don't know.''

Although they rarely comment on individual stories, United have opted to make a brief response to suggestions Rooney's alleged rift with Ferguson is now so great that he will be ushered out of Old Trafford at the earliest opportunity.

"To suggest Wayne Rooney will be sold in January is nonsense,'' a club spokesman said.

While the statement is a clear dismissal of the claims, the club's unusual step of commenting on newspaper speculation has in fact fuelled further discussion that Rooney may leave at the end of the season, when he will have just one year left on his United contract.

But despite the Rooney rumours, former Manchester United captain Steve Bruce believes Ferguson is acting in the player's best interests by taking him out of the firing line.

"He's [Ferguson] the right person to handle it," Bruce told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme. "I find it amazing that we're questioning it and I'm convinced he's done it in a way to protect the lad.

"I don't think Wayne will probably understand that at the moment because he's young but when you look back on it in later times I'm convinced Sir Alex is doing what he's done many, many times.

"He's trying to protect his big player, trying to keep him out of the spotlight, keep him under the radar, if you like. More importantly, trying to protect him in his way.

"We all know Wayne Rooney is a fantastic footballer and it's the first time in his career that he's had this, a little sort of blip, but make no mistake, he'll be back. He's our best talent in this country and it's about time we tried to protect him and look after him.''

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