Wayne Rooney’s British club footballing future is up in the air, with many national papers picking him to leave Manchester United in January for a position with a European club – Real Madrid is being tipped as the likely winner of the striker’s signature.

It is believed Rooney’s position at United is untenable after a series of run-ins with manager Alex Ferguson, firstly over the married number 10’s rendevouz with prostitutes and, more recently, contradicting Ferguson’s assertions to the media that he was carrying an injury.

Ferguson is known as a manager who believes no man is bigger than the club – he had falling-outs with players such as David Beckham, Ruud Van Nistleroy and Paul Ince which led to their leaving the club – and if Rooney departs, Ferguson’s focus will remain on the future of United.

Rooney, for his part, is said to be unhappy with the slowness of manager’s recruitment to replace club legends Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, perhaps realising he will be part of a severely weakened team if their places are not filled with ‘A-List’ players after their imminent retirements.

It’s ironic his leaving would free up more cash to help that recruitment. Money, too, has been bandied around as a possible cause of conflict –  United had been willing to make him the highest earner at the club, with a weekly salary of £150,000, but negotiations have been in place since before the World Cup with no contract renwal yet signed.

United’s best option may be to just sell Rooney
in the January transfer window, rather than risk his value plummeting now that he is only 20 months away from becoming
a free agent.

Sir Alex Ferguson and and United chief executive David Gill, who yesterday dismissed the conjecture about Rooney’s future as ‘nonsense, are due to speak at a Unicef press conference at lunchtime.