José Mourinho has challenged Wayne Rooney to go public if he still wants to leave Manchester United after admitting for the first time that he expects the striker will decide to stay at Old Trafford.
Mourinho said he would give Rooney until Wednesday at the latest to make his intentions clear or Chelsea would abandon their pursuit of the player and turn instead to another target, with Samuel Eto'o lined up as his next choice.
"The person that started the story has to finish the story," he said after Chelsea's goalless stalemate at Old Trafford. "A club like us, a manager like me, the people that work in the club with me… we are not silly to try to get a player from a big club that doesn't sell what they don't want to sell.
"We are not silly to try something if somebody didn't start it. So I think it is time for the good of everyone to finish the story. For one side, for the other side."
Asked to clarify whether he would like Rooney to state publicly if he wanted to quit United, Mourinho replied: "Yes, I would like. We are going to close another player if he is not coming.
"It depends on this [Rooney's decision]. It depends on his reaction and his feelings. If now he doesn't want to leave, we are out of the thing. But we need to know. We need to know what is happening."
Mourinho said he would wait "24 hours, 48 hours". Pushed on why he had said Rooney had started the transfer saga, he made it clear that Chelsea had been encouraged to pursue the player. "I know because I know." The information, he said, had been passed to Chelsea because "he told somebody who is very important in his career".
United's position is unchanged, meaning any Chelsea bid will be rejected out of hand, even if Rooney hands in a transfer request. Mourinho has been made aware of that – hence the negotiations with Anzhi Makhachkala's Eto'o – and Chelsea's manager believes Rooney may want to stay at Old Trafford anyway after getting a hero's reception from the home crowd.
"I think this club [United] must be a very special club," he said. "In every other club in the world, when a player wants to leave, they don't support him and give him a hard time.
"But they [United fans] have supported him all the way, so I think this must be a very special club, with special fans. It was good, it was nice, it was very English. I think probably now, he decides that he wants to stay. If he makes that decision, we will be the first to respect that."
Informed of those comments, United's manager, David Moyes, said the question of Rooney being sold was irrelevant, given his club's position. "He [Mourinho] has one thing right – it is a special club. We have said from day one [that he's not for sale]. You keep asking me and it is difficult but the answer is the same as day one."
Moyes added: "I was very pleased with his performance and I was very pleased with the reaction from the crowd. I expected it. I don't know how many times I have to say it but he's been great in training. I think anyone looking at him might see a leaner-looking Wayne.
"I said to him: 'I might play you for only 60 or 70 minutes, see how you go.'
"But no, he tracked back, he tackled, he chased when we needed it. I think Wayne has a positive mind at the moment. I don't think it needs to change.
"His performance tonight said enough [rather than a public statement]. He closed two or three people down in the corner and the crowd recognised the work he did. He nearly scored with an overhead kick late on, so I think his actions tonight showed what he thought."
Asked whether that was the matter finished, United's manager replied: "Do you think I need to answer that?"