By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY, July 18 (Reuters) – In case anybody had not quite got the message yet, a succession of well-briefed former Manchester United players lined up in Sydney on Thursday to firmly reiterate the English champions would not be selling Wayne Rooney.
United’s Premier League rivals Chelsea said on Wednesday they had been rebuffed after making a cash bid for the unsettled England striker, who returned early from the Asia-Pacific tour to have treatment on a hamstring injury.
Manager David Moyes avoided the question altogether in a scripted Q&A at a lunch in the city and it was left to former players Bryan Robson, Denis Irwin and Dwight Yorke – dressed in club blazers and ties – to trot out the party line.
“David Moyes has said Wayne Rooney isn’t for sale and as far as we’re concerned that’s the end of it,” former England and United captain Robson told reporters.
“I don’t think its been a disruption to the squad, they’re getting on with training,” he added.
“Unfortunately Wayne got the hamstring strain … but it hasn’t been a distraction for the other boys.”
English media reports said Rooney was ‘angry and confused’ after Moyes, who replaced Alex Ferguson at the end of last season, suggested last weekend he would be second choice behind Dutchman Robin van Persie next season.
Rooney joined United for 27.0 million pounds ($40.83 million) in August 2004 and has since made 402 appearances for the club, scoring 197 goals and winning five league titles and the Champions League.
The 27-year-old has two years left of a contract that earns him a basic salary of around 250,000 pounds ($378,100) a week.
Former fullback Irwin, who played at United for more than a decade under Ferguson, repeated Robson’s line almost word-for-word before adding that, personally, he would like Rooney to stay at the club.
“He’s a fantastic player, he’s scored a rack of goals for us so, yeah,” the Irishman said.
Former United striker Yorke prefaced his comments by saying he was happy to talk about “anything else but Rooney” but did say Moyes would have to put his own stamp on the squad, even if it meant dispensing with crowd favourites.
“When a manager comes into a tough job like Manchester United, he has to make tough decisions,” he said.
“David Moyes will have to do it his way and us as players, ex-players and supporters just have to trust him. That’s why he’s in that position.”
The trio, speaking as club ambassadors ahead of Saturday’s match against an A-League All Star XI in Sydney, were equally united in welcoming the prospect of Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas moving to Old Trafford.
United vice chairman Ed Woodward has returned to Europe and the British media have linked his premature departure from the tour to United’s bid to wrest the former Arsenal player away from Barcelona.
“I think Fabregas is a fantastic player and I hope he’s playing for Manchester United next season,” Robson said.
“I hope Ed is successful, if that’s what he’s gone back to England to do.” (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)