José Mourinho expects Manchester United to sell Wayne Rooney to a leading foreign club if they cannot convince him to extend his stay at Old Trafford, with Chelsea resigned to missing out on the forward, given the champions' intransigence over conducting business with a direct Premier League rival.
Rooney, who is in the last 17 months of his contract, was courted heavily by Chelsea last summer, with bids of £23m and £25m knocked back in July and August. United subsequently made it known they would not countenance his sale to them at any price, whatever the potential risks of retaining an unhappy player at the club. Even so, Mourinho had still hoped to secure the England striker this summer when he revamps his forward ranks, although there is an acceptance now that he may have to look elsewhere for reinforcements.
The Portuguese will be spared a direct confrontation with the 28-year-old forward he had hoped would be his when Chelsea host United on Sunday with Rooney, who has been suffering from a groin injury, having trained alone since returning from a warm-weather break in Egypt. Yet it was Mourinho, when asked if he would swap his own squad for United's, who introduced the subject of Rooney into proceedings as he considered the forthcoming contest. "Manchester United made it clear in the summer they don't swap or sell players to their direct rivals," he said. "They were clear in the way they approached the Rooney situation. For them it's pretty clear. They don't swap. They don't sell."
Asked if he saw that changing in the summer, he added: "No. They were very clear. I think maybe this summer they will try to sell to a non-direct rival. But they were very clear [about Chelsea]." While European clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain, who have expressed an interest in the striker in the past, might be considered United's direct rivals in continental competition, Mourinho subsequently clarified that he had meant they would not sell to "domestic" suitors.
David Moyes claimed he "would not talk about managers and players at other clubs" when his opposite number's comments were put to him, although he did add: "I completely disagree [with Mourinho's assessment]. I can only tell you I disagree, although Rooney will go to Brazil [for the World Cup]. Only time will give you the answer about Wayne." Talks between United and the player over a new contract remain at a delicate stage, particularly with the club currently five points off the Champions League qualification places.
Mourinho believes Moyes will end his first season at United since taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson in the top four, despite Chelsea seeking to open up a 12-point gap from their visitors. Regardless of Moyes' success this term, he does not see the current champions' ability to make waves in the transfer market in the summer as dependent on Champions League football.
"David is the right guy for the job," he said. "With the stability they are going to give him for sure, he will get results as the consequence of his quality and the consequence of the stability. If you ask my opinion, I keep thinking they will be [in the top four].
"But if they don't, every player knows it's an occasional situation. It's not a situation that will last forever, where they go to United and, for two or three or four years, don't play Champions League football. It's not the case but I think they will finish top four in the Premier League. With new players, do you believe they are not working on that?
"I believe they have the targets clearly identified and, with a choice of bringing signings in now to close people's mouths or waiting a bit to bring in exactly who they want, they'd prefer to wait. But sooner or later – sooner being now and later in the summer – they will bring exactly the players David wants. When a giant is sleeping, the giant is never [really] sleeping. Be careful." That served as a warning to his own players, who are currently on a five-match winning run in all competitions, before a fixture Mourinho considers "especially dangerous".
The Chelsea manager, who has loaned Ryan Bertrand to Aston Villa and will sanction Michael Essien's departure for a Serie A club early next week, will start with his £20.75m signing, Nemanja Matic, on the bench as he attempts to register his 100th Premier League win, having gained his first, on 15 August 2004, against Sir Alex's side.
Mourinho, who denied he had been disappointed to be overlooked at Old Trafford last summer, was close to Moyes' predecessor and took a phone call from the 13-time Premier League-winning manager last April informing him of his intention to step down.
"I only knew a couple of weeks before the announcement because my friend was nice to me and trusted me completely," he said. "He said he wanted me to know before I read about it in the press.
"I was afraid because I was sure that someone might leak it and the boss might think it had come from me, so I was a bit under pressure.
"At the time I was not committed to [rejoining] Chelsea but I wanted to come and Chelsea had already expressed a desire for me to come back. I had that door, not open, but ajar. I am where I want to be and I want to go nowhere else.
"I have the job I want to have. After [Real Madrid] I wanted to return to England and, if possible, Chelsea, this specific club. If it was not Chelsea, I would be here in another club but, when the door of my club opened for me, I had the job I wanted."