Manchester United and Liverpool have been this summer's most unusual bedfellows. In the unwavering stances taken on Wayne Rooney and Luis Suárez English football's greatest rivals have shared a rare common ground as they head into Sunday's lunchtime clash at Anfield.
In a coincidence of timing, when David Moyes told Rooney he was not leaving United for Chelsea, and Brendan Rodgers informed Suárez the same regarding Arsenal, a message of accord came down from two grand institutions that marquee players would no longer dictate transfer policy to their clubs.
As Rodgers says of Liverpool and United: "The big clubs have the obligation to do that. Maybe other clubs that don't have the status and the power, they can still be strong and aggressive in their stance, but certainly as a big club there's an obligation to lead the way. And as one of the biggest clubs in world football, we have done that."
Suárez, who was handed a new five-and-a-half year contract only last August, appeared to be heading to Arsenal after they made the now infamous £40m and a pound bid. That was until Liverpool's lawyers re-examined his contract and found no buy-out clause existed, meaning the striker's attempts to force through a move were futile.
Asked if English football may see more of Liverpool's and United's strategy, Moyes says: "I don't know really. I can only talk for what we choose to do with this situation with Wayne. I think the factor [in him staying] was Manchester United saying they weren't going to sell him. It was as simple as that. When he's realised that then he's knuckled down."
In United's Glazer family and Liverpool's Fenway Sports Group, each club have American owners who come from a culture where the major leagues – NFL [American football], NBA [basketball] and MLB [baseball] – are centrally controlled. Players are traded not sold, so transfer power is miniscule compared to their Premier League counterparts.
When Fenway's John W Henry tweeted in late July: "What do you think they're smoking over there at Emirates?" this was aimed at Arsenal but could also be read as speaking for the non-football devotee on how player power had gone off the scale.
After Liverpool stuck by Suárez when he was found guilty of racially abusing United's Patrice Evra, and of biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, some loyalty might have been expected. Instead, Suárez agitated for a move and refused to train before finally accepting his immediate future appears at Liverpool. As the Liverpool chairman, Tom Werner, told ESPN: "We said to Luis: 'You are important to the success of the club and we have to do what's in the best interest of Liverpool Football Club. You may be frustrated [we are] not in the Champions League this year but we expect you to be professional.' And as the window nears its end it would be even more difficult to replace Luis."
When asked if Suárez may leave at the end of this season, Werner offered him a reminder of the power Liverpool hold. "Let's take it one campaign at a time. If next May we are in the Champions League it would be a [happy] day to make fans and Luis happy. We are doing what's in the best interest of the club. Some may say that's a hard stance, but we have to say to the player we have a contract and we will examine the situation down the road. But for now we have to focus on improving on-field success of the club."
At United, Rooney spent his close season training hard while choosing to speak only through off-record briefings from his advisors as he hankered for a move to Chelsea. Yet from the moment Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson on 1 July the message that he was a contracted player for the next two years remained the same. "We told you and we told everyone else from day one [that he wasn't for sale], so I don't think any differently today about that," says Moyes, who rejected £26m and £30m bids from Chelsea but can now speak of Rooney potentially joining the roll of United legends. "We've said he's got an opportunity to reach the great heights here if he wants. He has already reached great heights but he has got an opportunity to reach the heights – I wouldn't say [an] immortal but you know, the people like where Bobby Charlton are."
For Rooney, who has 197 United goals, the breaking of Charlton's club-record mark of 249 may be only two seasons away. "There is a situation where Wayne could go on to emulate some of the greats at Manchester United with the goals he can score," adds Moyes.
Like Suárez at Liverpool, Rooney has seen United's stance and decided that, for the time being at least, he should knuckle down. "Strange enough, when we came back [for pre-season training] he wasn't a bad lad, he was getting on with his work and mentally I felt he was in a pretty good place," says Moyes.
As good a location as United and Liverpool find themselves after their summer of standing firm.