FORMER England manager Steve McClaren is convinced Wayne Rooney's future remains at Manchester United.
The decision of United manager Alex Ferguson to leave Rooney out of his starting line-up to face Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday has sparked intense speculation that the 27-year-old could leave Old Trafford.
All of yesterday's national newspapers carried stories suggesting the England forward's time at the club could be coming to an end.
But McClaren, who also worked as Ferguson's assistant from 1999 to 2001, believes too much has been made of Rooney's omission.
He said: "It is premature and obviously stirred up by the media.
"Everyone is looking for controversy and some like to find it in the selection Alex made.
"But there are many good players at Manchester United. One player is not bigger than the football club – that is Alex's mantra, that has always been his saying.
"He picked a team on Tuesday to beat Real Madrid and he very nearly succeeded.
"I wouldn't say he (Rooney) was dropped. I would say this was well planned, weeks and weeks ahead. Wayne Rooney would have known this decision was coming.
"He will have explained the reasons to Wayne Rooney why he was not playing, when he will be playing next, what he expects and what he expects in the next game.
"That is what he has done in the past, that is what I expect he has done on this occasion.
"That is how he keeps the squad happy and everybody on board.
"Everybody has to play, they have many big games. Wayne Rooney will be a big player for Manchester United to come."
The club and the player's representatives have not commented on the reports, but Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final could offer an indication as to whether Rooney remains in Ferguson's long-term plans.
McClaren feels it is now down to Rooney to respond with a performance on the field.
He said: "He won't be happy and Alex does not expect his players to be happy about not playing.
"What he is looking for, for the team, is a reaction from Wayne Rooney, and no better place to start than at Old Trafford on Sunday."
McClaren was a member of Sven-Goran Eriksson's England backroom staff when Rooney shone at Euro 2004 before later succeeding the Swede as national boss.
Some reports have questioned Rooney's attitude but McClaren has seen enough of him to have no concerns.
He said: "Wayne Rooney is the first on the field and last off it.
"He works like a Trojan every day. He is a true professional. He is going to be a big player for Manchester United."
Despite that, McClaren acknowledges that Ferguson will not hesitate to move a player on should he deem it necessary.
He said: "That is one thing you can't predict because you have seen such big players for Manchester United come and go in previous years.
"He will make that decision early. He plans. That is the difference between top managers and just below. They plan ahead. They are a helicopter, way above everybody, planning not just the next game but the next five games, the season, even next season.
"He plans ahead and will be planning ahead now. He plans everything for the good of Manchester United, not for the good of Wayne Rooney, (Robin) Van Persie or any one player.
"Alex will look every week, every day, every season at each individual player very closely in training and games and say what kind of condition they are in and is he still mentally right for Manchester United.
"If not, he will have no hesitation in removing a player.
"But for the moment, I cannot see his (Rooney's) future beyond Manchester United."