By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Arsenal have been encouraged to bid for Wayne Rooney in January, Goal can reveal.
The Premier League leaders have been told via informal conversations that the striker still wants to leave Manchester United despite describing himself this week as "happy" and "settled" at the club.
|ROONEY'S MAN UTD STATS FOR 2013-14
PASS SUCCESS RATE
|Stats gathered from WhoScored.com|
Intriguingly, Rooney has already begun exploring the possibility of a sensational transfer in January, by which time there will be only 18 months remaining on his £250,000-a-week contract.
Chelsea led the race to sign Rooney in the summer, making two £20 million-plus bids, after being told that the 27-year-old wanted to move to Stamford Bridge, but there was also strong interest from Arsenal up until the final week of the window.
United refused to sell Rooney to Chelsea, a club they regard as a principal title rival, but the league champions could be hemmed into a corner if the player pushes hard for a transfer either in January or next summer while refusing to extend his current deal.
Arsenal’s priority is to sign a blue-chip striker after failing to capture one in the summer but sources have said that Arsene Wenger has not yet drawn up a list of definitive forward targets.
It is not known if Wenger will sanction a concerted January move for Rooney, or if United would sell to Arsenal, but the Gunners boss is a huge admirer of the Englishman, who has begun the season in outstanding form.
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Rooney 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.
His 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 new manager David Moyes.
Speaking on Wednesday, ahead of his role in England’s World Cup qualifying win against Montenegro at Wembley on Friday night, Rooney offered only a flicker of encouragement to United that he would sign a new deal.
Asked directly on Wednesday 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 will use the uncertainty as leverage to engineer a transfer.
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