LONDON — Chelsea’s ambitious bid to sign striker Wayne Rooney from Manchester United was rejected by the Premier League champions.
The 27-year-old Rooney has pushed for a move since expressing frustration about his lack of playing time.
But both Alex Ferguson and David Moyes, who succeeded his fellow Scot as manager in May, insisted Rooney was not available because he has two years left on his contract.
Despite those public statements, Chelsea maintained its pursuit of the England striker, culminating in a formal bid submitted to its Premier League rival.
The London club confirmed the bid to deny reports that it had offered midfielder Juan Mata or defender David Luiz as part of a $15 million offer.
“The official bid was just about a certain about of money … not one single player was involved in our bid,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said Wednesday after a 1-0 victory over Thailand’s all-star team during a preseason tour of Asia.
And Mourinho said United “knows we want the player.”
“We did what we have to do in a proper way, in an ethical way,” said Mourinho, who is back in charge at Chelsea after six years. “We feel very happy with our behavior because it was clean … we made the bid and now it is up to Man United and now it is up the player.”
Asked whether Chelsea’s transfer plans amounted to “Rooney or bust, Mourinho replied: “Yes.”
Rooney also sought to leave United in 2010 but backed down after negotiating a new and improved contract with the club.
Back then, despite underperforming at the 2010 World Cup, Rooney was widely considered among the world’s top strikers.
Now, he is no longer the No. 1 choice at United, slipping behind striker Robin van Persie at Old Trafford last season and often playing in central midfield.
“He is a little bit frustrated at being taken off,” Ferguson said in May when revealing Rooney’s transfer request before retiring.
Neither Rooney nor his management team disputed Ferguson’s version of events or said the player was committed to United.
Moyes has made it clear he wants Rooney to remain among the striking options for his first season in charge of the 20-time English champions.
“If for any reason we had an injury to Robin van Persie, we are going to need him, and I want as many options as possible,” Moyes said on the weekend.
Rooney returned home from United’s tour of Asia last week with a hamstring injury that the club says will keep him out until August.
Before Chelsea made its bid, Mourinho publicly lavished praise on Rooney and said England’s 2014 World Cup hopes could be jeopardized if first-team opportunities are limited at United.
“If Wayne is a second choice for Man United, then the national team will be affected,” Mourinho told the BBC on Tuesday.
Adding to the intrigue, United vice chairman Ed Woodward flew back early to England from the Australian leg of the club’s preseason tour to conduct undisclosed transfer business.