By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Wayne Rooney has admitted to team-mates that he could leave Manchester United in the summer, Goal.com can reveal.
Rooney has maintained a public stance of silence following widespread suggestions that Sir Alex Ferguson might be willing to sell him.
But Goal.com understands that the 27-year-old has privately told club and international colleagues that his Old Trafford future is up in the air.
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Rooney harboured the doubts long before he was dropped for last Tuesday’s defeat by Real Madrid. He is believed to have told team-mates during the international break in the first week of February that he could leave United in the summer.
Although Rooney scored United’s second goal upon his return to the starting XI in their 2-2 FA Cup draw against Chelsea on Sunday, he is said to know that his status at Old Trafford has been downgraded following the £24 million arrival of Robin van Persie last summer.
Sir Alex has made it clear that he is unhappy with the England talisman’s fitness, conditioning and lifestyle. One training ground theory is that the United coaching staff believe Rooney has already peaked as a footballer.
Sir Alex’s public stance is that United plan to hold talks to renew the player’s contract, which expires in 2015.
“I wasn’t even aware of that [his contract running out],” the manager said at his media briefing last Friday.
“So there’s no issue with his contract. When it has to be renegotiated it will be done. We don’t want players to leave.”
Despite Sir Alex’s declaration that Rooney is not for sale, the England international’s importance to the team has diminished to the point that he is highly unlikely to be offered anywhere near the £250,000-a-week salary he secured after threatening to quit United in 2010.
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There remains the strong possibility that the offer of reduced terms when the two parties sit down at the end of the season could open the door for a move.
Paris Saint-Germain have been most strongly linked with Rooney, who scored his 196th goal for United on Sunday, but it is understood that the forward would only be willing to sever his ties with the north-west of England if he was to follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gabriel Heinze, David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy and make a switch to Real Madrid.
Although the upcoming presidential elections at Real will not be as fiercely disputed as usual and the club’s priority is tying Cristiano Ronaldo to another contract, the unopposed Florentino Perez could be persuaded to recruit a Galactico signing to one of the few clubs able to afford Rooney’s mammoth wages.
Rooney is understood to believe that if he can recapture his form of last season in the final two months of this campaign, he could entice Real to make a move.