"Anyone would think that Rooney's playing for a new contract," opined the journalist over in Germany to cover Manchester United’s 5-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen last week.

It was a sly, as well as wry, comment and one for which the hack's cynicism could be forgiven given Wayne Rooney's history of agitating for more at United.

Rooney has been, by a distance, United's best player so far this season. Game after game, he has received the club's man of the match award, with the latest coming after Sunday's 2-2 draw at Tottenham. Seemingly fitter, leaner and more productive, he's an early contender for footballer of the year.

When he speaks to the media after matches, Rooney does so with self-effacing diplomacy. He compliments teammates and plays down his own role. He knows that what he says is just as important as what he doesn't, that anything can be open to misinterpretation. He'd rather say nothing at all, like he did for most of the summer when speculation about his future rumbled on.

Rooney denies that he ever wanted to leave Old Trafford, yet fans and his teammates were firmly under the understanding that he wanted to depart M16 after nearly a decade of success. If his colleagues asked him why, they were told that things had gone on which they knew nothing about.

Sir Alex Ferguson had chosen to depart with a dig at Rooney for wanting to go and while the striker chose to say nothing, his people briefed journalists behind the scenes. The semantics will never be agreed, but United remained adamant that he was going nowhere. Privately, they were never going to let him join a domestic rival and such were Rooney's wages and his form at the end of last season, no queue of foreign suitors existed who were going to pay Lionel Messi- and Cristiano Ronaldo-level wages for a player who wasn't in the same class as either.