LONDON — Thick, greedy, mercenary, unfaithful to his wife, photographed urinating and smoking outside a bar, has brought Manchester United into disrepute by his off-field actions, injured and hopelessly out of form; Wayne Rooney’s resume for the second half of 2011 is surely one that even he must look at with shame. That, of course, pre-supposes he cares.

It takes years for a player to build up a reputation but days in which to lose it. Rooney has lost it big time, going from hero to below zero at United. It is difficult to think of another player whose popularity has dropped so much in so little time. We have all made mistakes in our life but Rooney could hardly have committed more this year, though it would be wrong to underestimate him.

His advisers, effectively agent Paul Stretford, told United in August — before the hotel hookers and public disagreement about Rooney’s ankle injury hit the public domain — that his client would not be signing a new contract (his current deal expires in 2012) and wanted to leave United. No reason was given but it is not rocket science. It’s money. Nothing else, money.

£ooney, sorry Rooney, will be hard pushed to find a better manager and club than Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. That is irrelevant to Team Rooney. They don’t care who the manager is or which club the striker signs for — he’ll go to the highest bidder which will mean a multimillion pound pay day for multimillionaires Rooney and Stretford.

The pair have been together for eight years. Stretford takes 20 percent of the player’s commercial deals while renegotiating the England international’s last contract with United earned the agent £500,000, which was paid by the club. Only on Planet Football.

It would be naive to think that Stretford had not checked out what other clubs might pay Rooney, who is on £90,000 a week at Old Trafford. United may have offered him double that to sign a new deal — it never got around to talking figures — but Manchester City, which Ferguson once called “the noisy neighbors,” pays lesser players more.

On the face of it, Rooney would appear to be in a strong bargaining position. But is he?

The top clubs tend not to bring in big-name players in January because they do not want to disrupt the spirit and momentum built up in the first half of the season. And with Rooney comes the media circus with the new boy hogging the spotlight, a guaranteed way of alienating the players who have shed blood, sweat and tears for the club since August.

Obviously City could afford Rooney, or anyone, whatever the price. It hardly needs him, though. City has his former United teammate Carlos Tevez scoring in almost every game, Mario Balotelli, the highly-rated former Inter Milan striker, is almost fit again after knee surgery plus Jo, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz.

And would United really sell its prize asset to its noisy neighbor?

Chelsea has similar spending power, though Roman Abramovich has stopped his initial buy, buy, buy policy. Carlo Ancelotti has Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda, with Frank Lampard usually weighing in with 20 goals a season from midfield. How would Rooney improve the Premier League’s most prolific attack?

Real Madrid? Can anyone imagine Rooney learning Spanish or sitting in a tapas bar in the Spanish capital chatting about local culture? Stop laughing. With a few exceptions English players do not prosper abroad. Jose Mourinho has Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain, Mezut Ozil, Angel di Maria, Kaka and Karim Benzema — not bad attacking options.

Would a player with one outfield goal in seven months improve any of the would-be buyers? Why would a change of club suddenly make Rooney the player he was last season? Maybe, just maybe, for whatever reason we have seen the best of Rooney.

The player claimed he is upset by United’s failure to strengthen its squad significantly, that trophies not cash is why he wants to leave. Garbage. Even Mr. Magoo could see through that. Players don’t sit at home thinking their club should have bought so-and-so, mostly they think money.

“I met with (chief executive) David Gill last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad,” said Rooney in a statement. “I then told him that I would not be signing a new contract.”

Who on earth does Wayne Rooney think he is? Does he think Fergie should run every transfer past him? Imagine the scene three years ago:

Ferguson: “I’m buying Nani.”

Rooney: “My grandmother. . .?”

His United teammates will be unimpressed by the assertion he doesn’t think they are good enough to win anything. Ironic that on his current form he can’t even get in the side he feels is so mediocre. The timing of his (or his agent’s) outburst is astonishing. Why go public 2 1/2 months before the January transfer window opens? In every way, Rooney and Stretford have scored a huge own goal and jumped straight into the top 10 public relations gaffes.

While this may not be a vintage United side, it was only one point behind champions Chelsea last season and is the only Premier League side unbeaten in all competitions this time around. Sir Alex Ferguson has brought 35 trophies to Old Trafford, Rooney sharing in eight of them. The Scot deserves to be trusted.

“He’s a genius, a one-off,” said Rooney of Ferguson in his ghosted statement, yet not good enough for the wantaway to believe the good times at the Theatre of Dreams will continue. It was also bewildering that Rooney referred to the club only as MUFC.

Rooney has erased his place in the pantheon of legends at Old Trafford and it serves him right. Cristiano Ronaldo, for all the stick he received from some (unjustly so), behaved impeccably during his final year with the club compared to this imbecile.

Rooney will no doubt be happy with the hoards of cash he may receive from City, but it’ll never be United. Never.

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for theLondon Daily Telegraph.

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