Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that Wayne Rooney has intimated to him that he wants to leave Manchester United.
He claims to have held a meeting with the talismanic frontman and his representative, during which the 24-year-old admitted that he has no intention of signing a new contract and is keen to take on a fresh challenge elsewhere.
Speculation had been mounting that Rooney could soon be on his way out of Old Trafford after seeing his relationship with his manager stretched to breaking point.
It is claimed that the England international feels frozen out at present, having been omitted from games he believes he was fit enough to play in - with United continuously claiming that he was nursing an ankle knock.
Rooney admitted as much after turning out for his country in a recent Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro, revealing that he had no idea as to why Ferguson continued to overlook him.
The United boss is said to have been incensed at seeing his authority undermined and has made little effort to interact with his star striker ever since.
That has fuelled rumours that Rooney could be on his way in the January transfer window, with Ferguson's decision to leave him on the bench for Saturday's Premier League meeting with West Brom only serving to fuel the fire.
The usual suspects have already been linked with a big-money approach in the New Year, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea all reported to be waiting in the wings.
But it is local rivals Manchester City that have been installed as the early 9/4 favourites with Sky Bet to snap up the striker.
Ferguson insists there has been no falling out between himself and Rooney, claiming the door is still open for him to stay, but acknowledges that a bidding war is now likely with the player making it clear that he intends to move on.
"David (Gill, chief executive) telephoned me and said he was on his way over because he had some bad news," Ferguson told MUTV.
"His agent said he wouldn't sign his contract and wanted away.
"Dealing with the next step was always going to be decisive for us, how we dealt with the situation.
"I asked to have a meeting with the boy and he reiterated what his agent said, that he wanted to go.
"The one thing I said to him was 'respect this club', I don't want any nonsense from you.
"I don't know if he has done that. I have doubts on that, we are reading all these things about falling out with me and all that nonsense.
"It's disappointing because we have done everything we possibly can to help Wayne Rooney ever since he came to the club.
"We have always been here as a harbour for him any time he has been in trouble, the advice we have given him, I was even prepared to give him financial advice.
"But it's not just Wayne Rooney, we have done that for all the players.
"Wayne has been the beneficiary of that, just as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes have...so there has been no falling out.
"So there we are, we have got into a situation where we had to clarify this for our fans because what we saw on Saturday was unacceptable.
"When we got to 2-2 (against West Brom) and they were chanting Wayne Rooney, it's a pressure on the players and didn't do the team any good so we had to clarify the situation and put it right."
Ferguson added: "It was a shock. I couldn't believe it.
"In early discussions - in March I think - we had discussions with him, he intimated he wanted to stay, that he wanted a life contract with the club, that he was at the best club in the world. It was terribly disappointing to get the news.
"We couldn't understand it."
Ferguson insists no approach has been lodged for Rooney as yet and has sought to make it clear that the offer of a new contract remains on the table should the striker change his mind.
"There's no offer on the table as they are not prepared to listen to an offer but there's always an offer from Manchester United to negotiate with any player and that's still there," he said.
"I am disappointed, I can't believe it. When you manage Manchester United there is always something you have to deal with and we have had to deal with these situations before. It's not as easy as it was a few years ago.
"We are dealing with agents who are living in the pockets of players, it's a different world and we have to deal with it."
Where will Wayne Rooney be playing after the January transfer window?