MANCHESTER: Police have dispersed angry Manchester United fans who were besieging the house of club superstar Wayne Rooney reportedly in protest at his decision to quit.
Officers were called out late Thursday after a mob of up to 30 supporters descended on the star’s 4.5-million-pound (seven-million-dollar) mansion in Prestbury, close to Manchester.
It came shortly after a crisis meeting at the club failed to resolve the future of Rooney, whose decision to walk away from Manchester United after six years has sent shockwaves through the world of English football.
Fans have been incensed by the news, and reports that the striker could be snapped up by local arch rivals Manchester City have only added to their sense of betrayal.
The balaclava-clad fans arrived at Rooney’s house—which he shares with his wife Coleen and son Kai—in a convoy of cars and repeatedly buzzed on his intercom, reported Britain’s Sun newspaper.
They warned the striker not to sign for Man City before police arrived and threatened to arrest them unless they dispersed, said the paper. Six security guards reportedly came to stand watch at the house after the incident.
A local police spokesman told AFP that at 8:30 pm (1930 GMT) "a call was received from a resident in Prestbury regarding 20 to 30 people assembling outside their address.
"Police attended the scene and the group dispersed peacefully. No offences were committed."
Earlier Thursday, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson held talks with the club’s chief executive David Gill and Rooney’s representatives but the club said afterwards there were "no developments" and asked fans to remain patient.
On Wednesday, Rooney said he was leaving because he believed United were no longer able to match his ambition by being able to compete in the transfer market for the world’s best players.
Rooney’s comments appeared to slam shut any chance of the striker being able to settle his differences with the club after Ferguson said on Tuesday the door was still open to a solution.
A furious Ferguson had reacted on Wednesday by telling reporters following United’s 1-0 Champions League victory over Bursaspor that the club had called a meeting in order to "put the issue to bed".
But the club did not release any further details on why Thursday’s talks had failed to resolve the issue.
Ferguson has not speculated on what course of action he may take but it seems likely that Rooney has played his last game in a United shirt and that the club will seek to sell him as soon as the January transfer window opens.
Rooney, the figurehead of the United team and one of the world’s most talented footballers, had stunned his employers by breaking off negotiations over a new contract and informing them he wished to leave.
With only 18 months left to run on his current 90,000 pounds (140,000 dollars) per week deal, United are now likely to offload Rooney as quickly as possible before his value, around 50 million pounds (79 million dollars), begins to depreciate.
Rooney would be able to leave United for free if he saw out the remainder of his contract.
Most reports have said that Manchester City is the favorite to sign Rooney.
City, owned by Abu Dhabi billionaire Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, would comfortably be able to pay both the 50-million-pound transfer fee and Rooney’s salary demands, expected to be more than 200,000 pounds (316,000 dollars) per week.
Ferguson warned Rooney that any move to a new club was unlikely to be an improvement on United, where he has already accumulated eight major trophies in the six years since he signed from Everton as a teenager in 2004.
"Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it’s a better cow than the one you’ve got in your own field," Ferguson remarked.
"And it never really works out that way."
While the football world waits to discover Rooney’s fate, his team-mates are trying to block out the controversy as they focus on Sunday’s Premier League trip to Stoke. United are already five points behind leaders Chelsea.