By Wayne Veysey
Manchester United have rejected a fresh approach from Chelsea to sign Wayne Rooney.
The Londoners made a new move to capture England’s talisman earlier this month but the Premier League champions dismissed it out of hand.
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Goal understands that the Europa League champions have told United officials they are willing to pay €36.5m for Rooney in the January window.
Jose Mourinho’s team submitted two offers for Rooney last summer after being told that the 28-year-old wanted to move to Stamford Bridge, with the second believed to be around the €30.5m mark.
Chelsea’s renewed attempt to capture England’s talisman is the latest twist in their lengthy pursuit of the player. It is understood the approach was made before they beat United 3-1 last Sunday, when Samuel Eto’o scored a hat-trick.
Privately, United are adamant that they will not sell Rooney this month to Chelsea, who they regard as rivals for a Champions League place, or any other club.
But David Moyes’ side are struggling to hold on to a player who has rejected all attempts from the Premier League champions to sit down for talks about extending his €305,000-a-week contract, which expires in 18 months.
Rooney has been one of United’s few shining lights in what has been a disastrous season but he is believed to be keen to seek a fresh challenge at an established Champions League club, where his status as the team’s principal centre-forward would be unquestioned.
Rooney’s disillusionment at occasionally being played out of position by Sir Alex Ferguson last season has also only partly been rectified by being consistently handed the No.10 role under David Moyes.
He has not spoken publicly about his future since last October, when he offered only a flicker of encouragement to United that he would sign a new deal.
Asked directly if he would like to stay at United, Rooney said: "You can see I'm playing and I'm happy in my football. I'll have more discussions with the club and we'll see what happens from there."
Privately, Rooney has provided no assurances to his employers and there is a sense among senior United officials that the forward’s agent Paul Stretford is using the uncertainty as leverage to engineer a transfer.
In addition to the strong interest from Chelsea, Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are all believed to be closely monitoring the striker’s situation.
United would prefer to sell Rooney abroad than to another English club, but it is believed that the player’s preference is to remain in the Premier League, with Chelsea his current favoured destination.
Mata’s increasingly likely sale to United this month will free up the cash for Chelsea to afford Rooney within the parameters of financial fair play.
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