Rumours that Manchester United are preparing to offload star striker Wayne Rooney next summer, will come as a surprise to many in the footballing world. But, those that have been around long enough know, that Sir Alex Ferguson is prepared to act with ruthless conviction when the time is right for a player to leave Old Trafford.
To many, Rooney is the leading light in a star-studded Red Devils squad, the fulcrum for which United's array of attacking talents should be built around. Even after the arrival of £24million summer signing Robin van Persie from Arsenal, and the attacking midfield addition of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, the 26-year-old's place in the team, in the eyes of the fans, appeared untouchable.
Ferguson had suggested that the England international would be as interchangeable as Van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez this season, though, highlighting his embarrassing riches of striker options for the 2012/13 campaign.
After being dropped to the bench for Saturday's 3-2 victory against Fulham, due to a perceived lack of fitness following his underwhelming showing in the 1-0 loss at Everton, Rooney came on as a late substitute only to be stretchered off in stoppage time, with a nasty gash that will sideline him for the next two months.
In truth, the freak injury is a relative side story to the speculation surrounding Rooney's relationship breakdown with Ferguson, less than two years after the United boss moved 'hell-and-high-water' to ensure his striker did not defect to bitter rivals Manchester City, caving in to the player's lucrative wage-demands, after his ill-advised contract stand-off in 2010.
According to the Daily Mirror, Ferguson doesn't feel that Rooney's performances and commitment have justified the £250,000-a-week contract he was handed, and so the Scot is now preparing the groundwork for his departure next summer.
Despite scoring 27 goals in the Premier League last season - Rooney's best return of his career to-date - the suggestion is that United can do without their leading marksman, and are ready to cash-in with a £40million valuation being touted.
Whilst it seems highly unlikely that United would be a) open to a sale, or b) find a club willing to pay that amount of money, if reports are true, it wouldn't be the first time a player has fallen foul of Ferguson. The 70-year-old has always stayed true to his word that no player is bigger than Manchester United Football Club.
Within three years of arriving at Old Trafford, he showed his tough streak by breaking up the drinking culture at the heart of his squad, dumping both Paul McGrath and Norman Whiteside in 1989.
The next player to feel Ferguson's wrath was 'big-time Charlie" Paul Ince. The combative midfielder made 278 appearances for United in six years, and captained them to the Premier League title, before his conduct began to irritate his manager, who sold Ince to Inter Milan.
Even more shocking was Jaap Stam's sale to Lazio at the start of 2001/02, prompted by the Dutch defender's admission that Ferguson had 'tapped him up' ahead of his move from PSV Eindhoven. The United boss has since admitted that getting rid of Stam was a mistake, but felt the situation had forced his hand.
Ferguson had no such qualms in selling David Beckham to Real Madrid two years later, though, after tiring of the former England skipper's celebrity lifestyle. Having inadvertently kicked a boot in anger, in the United dressing-room after an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, and catching Beckham - leaving him needing stitches to a wound above his left eye - the midfielder was sold in the summer of 2003, after the pair's relationship broke down completely.
Another former United captain, Roy Keane also left on bad terms, after he openly criticised his team-mates on the club's own channel MUTV, following a 4-1 defeat to Middlesbrough. Ferguson was furious that his skipper had broken ranks, and Keane went on his way to Celtic in November 2005.
Ruud van Nistelrooy scored 150 goals in a five-year spell with the Red Devils, but fell out with Ferguson in 2006 when he was dropped for their League Cup final win over Wigan Athletic. He was handed a chance of redemption, but the Dutchman's training ground bust-up with Cristiano Ronaldo at the end of the same season, proved to be the final straw for Van Nistelrooy, who was sold to Real Madrid that summer.
If recent history has taught us anything, it's that if Rooney has indeed fallen foul of Ferguson, then his future at Old Trafford is bleak.
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