By Wayne Veysey
Wayne Rooney is refusing to open talks on a new Manchester United contract.
Despite describing himself this week as “happy” and “settled” at Old Trafford, the striker still wants to explore the possibility of leaving the club.
It is understood that Rooney’s camp have rejected a recent approach from United chiefs to start talks on extending his contract, which expires at the end of next season.
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The forward, who turns 28 later in October, has begun the new season in outstanding form but is ready to renew his attempts to leave the Premier League champions, possibly even as early as January.
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 only partly been rectified by being consistently handed the No.10 role under new manager David Moyes.
Speaking on Wednesday, ahead of England’s World Cup qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley on Friday night, Rooney offered only a flicker of public 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, will use the uncertainty as leverage to engineer a transfer.
Chelsea made two bids for Rooney in the summer after being told that the 27-year-old wanted to move to Stamford Bridge, and 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 €295,000-a-week contract.
Speaking in July, new United chief executive Ed Woodward claimed there were no immediate plans to hold fresh contract talks with any United player, adding that there was “no trigger day” for discussions with Rooney about a new deal. Six weeks later, Nani signed a new, five-year contract.
Rooney spoke publicly for the first time on Wednesday about his reasons for wanting to leave United, blaming his disillusionment on Ferguson playing him out of position following the signing of Robin van Persie.
He said: "Everyone at the club knew where I wanted to play and I think that's why I was disappointed. I got told to play in midfield and I didn't want to. I just think there had to come a point when, for my own career, I had to be a bit selfish really."
Rooney claimed he was happy with his role in the team under Moyes, which has yielded five goals in eight United matches this seasons.
"David Moyes has come in, he's playing me up front and I'm enjoying it," explained the striker. “I've scored a few goals and I'm playing every week. I feel as fit as I ever have done.
"I had a couple of injuries pre-season but I feel great and in good shape. It's a mixture of things, but I am happy and I am enjoying my football."