LONDON: The phoney war over Wayne Rooney is over. Chelsea have had a first, formal offer rejected by Manchester United but will be back writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

One way or another, one destination or another, the England striker will not be starting the season with Manchester United – and an intercontinental media has played a key role in moving the issue along.

United, with manager David Moyes and new effective chief executive Ed Woodward, are currently on a pre-season tour in Australia but Rooney is back in England for treatment to a hamstring strain.

Rooney fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of last season. Ferguson then retired and Moyes insisted, on his first interview at United, that he had undertaken several discussions with Rooney who was not for sale.

The issue bubbled back to the surface after Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, asked to assess Rooney, admitted openly his admiration for a player who has two years remaining on his Old Trafford contract.

Mourinho’s comments were relayed back to United. Woodward, officially executive vice-chairman, said no contract extension talks were imminent or even necessary. Moyes – trying to offer even-handed treatment to all his players – said: “If, for any reason, we had an injury to Robin Van Persie, we’ll need him.

“But I’ve got to ensure everything is not just about him [Rooney]. Manchester United isn’t about Wayne, Manchester United is about the team, the club.”

‘Angry’ reaction

Those comments were punished across the broadcast and print media over the weekend and left Rooney, reportedly, “angry and confused” about his status at United.

Thus encouraged, Chelsea submitted a formal written bid. Initially sources close to the United party in Australia indicated the bid amounted to £10m plus either Juan Mata or David Luiz.

The potential loss of either player sparked furious reaction among Blues’ fans. Jose Mourinho – new manager of a club which never, ever talks about transfers in or out – took the unusual step of confirming a bid but denying any player-exchange offer.

United rejected the bid but the mere act of doing that signalled the start of an auction. The price will rise as fast as new bidders enter the contest – with Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain among favourites to follow Chelsea’s lead.