Rooney has not regained his first-choice status at United since being dropped in September, starting only three of the club’s last 20 Premier League fixtures.
And after being left out of the travelling party for the visit to Saint-Etienne on Wednesday in order that he be helped to recover from a minor muscle problem, manager Jose Mourinho refused to rule out a departure for Rooney before the Chinese transfer deadline on February 28.
“You have to ask him,” said Mourinho when questioned on his club captain. “I can’t guarantee I am here next week. I can’t guarantee that a player is here next season… You have to ask him.”
Fabio Cannavaro followed up by admitting that there have been talks at his Tianjin Quanjian club related to a swoop for Rooney, and they remain one of two clubs able to consider bringing in the 53-goal England international.
Beijing Guoan are the only other club outside of Quanjian with space on their foreign player quota after the CSL moved to curb the investment in world stars by reducing the cap from four players to three. Both clubs are also in a position financially to offer the kind of salary Rooney may be seeking in order to venture to the Far East.
With Carlos Tevez having signed a £615,000-a-week contract with Shanghai Shenhua in December, Rooney will fancy his chances of attracting a similar bid, but that is not expected to put off either Beijing Guoan or Tianjin Quanjian.
One issue which may block a route to Tianjin is what Rooney might offer on the pitch, with Cannavaro suggesting United’s all-time record goalscorer would not fit in with his team’s tactical style.
“We did make an approach for Rooney, but it was just chit-chat because he simply don’t suit our style of play,” Cannavaro told Tianjin TV. “No further discussion was necessary.”
“Our prime target is still Nikola Kalinic but it’s quite difficult for his club [Fiorentina] to let him leave at the moment. Under such circumstances, we are caught in a dilemma. I need to communicate with our managing director.”
The Italian’s message could well open the door for Beijing Guoan to make their move, and while MLS remains an attractive prospect to Rooney, they may be in the best position to end his United ostracism sooner rather than later.