Roy Keane has told Wayne Rooney to look after himself as Manchester United finally get ready to respond to the explosion of interest in the England striker's future.
With a UEFA press conference planned for Tuesday afternoon to preview Wednesday's Champions League showdown with Bursaspor, Sir Alex Ferguson knows he will face some pretty intense questioning about his relationship with Rooney.
"If I was to offer advice to Wayne, who is a good lad, I would tell him to make sure he looks after number one," said the Ipswich manager.
The relationship is said to have deteriorated so badly that Rooney has told United there is no way he will sign a contract extension when the current one ends in 2012.
There remains a possibility manager Ferguson could head the whole thing off by releasing a statement earlier in the day in an attempt to clarify a number of issues, which in itself would be an extraordinary step for a player.
Yet, as someone whose own, even more illustrious, Old Trafford career was brought to a brutal end in four lines of appreciative quotes from his manager in November 2005, Keane has told Rooney to consider only one person as he looks ahead to the remainder of his career.
"Players and managers fall out all the time. It is part of life," said the Ipswich manager. "Players are pieces of meat - that's how I look at it. When your time's up, your time's up."
Thus far, Ferguson has kept his own counsel, although he looked relaxed as he attended a £1million extension of United's charitable work for UNICEF on Monday.
Behind the scenes however, work is under way to try to fashion some kind of response to a situation United's insiders admit has caught them by surprise, if only because of the manner of it.
Even as recently as Monday afternoon, suggestions of high-level conversations involving United officials gave rise to the idea Rooney was being persuaded to sign a new contract. But Press Association Sport understands this is not the case and the entire stand-off remains exactly as it was on Sunday, when it became apparent exactly how fractured the relationship between Rooney and Ferguson has become.
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