If Alex Ferguson’s dealings with star players who dared step out of line at Manchester United is anything to go by, then Wayne Rooney’s ticket to Spain should already have been booked.

England’s star forward broke ranks in extraordinary fashion last week, publicly contradicting Ferguson’s statements about him having an ankle injury, and then refusing to sign a new contract.

Add to that the lack of effort he’s displayed on the pitch ever since the World Cup, his public drinking, smoking and urinating escapades, and his sobbing threesome with two prostitutes while his wife Coleen was five months pregnant, and one would think: Ferguson has sold star players for much, much less. For example:

Paul Ince

Ince was one of the best all-round midfielders in the world, and he formed a formidable partnership with Roy Keane.

But he was also a volatile character, a big player with a big ego and that made for a tense relationship with his manager.

Finally, in 1995, Ferguson decided enough was enough and sold him to Inter Milan in spite of an uproar from United fans. They got even angrier when Ferguson replaced him with 20-year-old Nicky Butt.

Andrei Kanchelskis

Ince’s teammate Kanchelskis was also sold after falling out with Ferguson, and it didn’t matter one bit that he was the side’s top scorer during his final season, and one of the Premier League’s best foreign imports at the time.

Dwight Yorke

He was irresistible in his first season at United, topping the league’s goal-scoring charts and forming one of the best strike partnerships in Premier League history with Andy Cole.

But then he got involved in a relationship with Jordan, aka Katie Price, the topless model and attention whore everybody in Britain loves to hate; and his penchant for Jordan’s celebrity lifestyle led to a falling-out with Ferguson.

In less than three seasons after being hailed one of the best strikers in the world, Yorke’s United career was over.

David Beckham

The player who replaced Kanchelskis would also make a sensational departure. Life-long United fan David Beckham was more than a star at United, he was a hero, an icon that symbolised the club’s spirit.

But Ferguson grew tired of the constant distractions brought on by Beckham’s celebrity status, and their relationship began to sour.

Even though Beckham was football’s most valuable commodity at the time, and probably still is, Ferguson gave him the boot (pun intended) in 2003.

Though Beckham had uttered that dreaded line, “never say never” (which ironically requires you to say “never” twice), few United fans believed he would actually leave. But with his contract also coming dangerously close to expiring, Ferguson accepted a deal of around £25mil from Real Madrid.

Jaap Stam

The giant Dutchman was voted the best defender in the Champions League for two consecutive seasons, and was still able to fetch £16.5mil when Ferguson decided to get rid of him at the ripe old age of 29.

Some controversial statements in Stam’s biography, including one about Ferguson making an illegal approach when the club were trying to sign him, angered the manager so much so that he was willing to sell Stam even though the only replacement he had lined up was an ageing Laurent Blanc.

Ruud van Nistelrooy

Another Dutchman to leave United in acrimonious circumstances was goal-machine van Nistelrooy. He was still good enough to score 33 goals in 47 games for Real Madrid in his first season after he left United, but it didn’t matter one bit to Ferguson.

After a magnificent first few seasons where he just couldn’t stop scoring, van Nistelrooy began to look disinterested. He looked increasingly frustrated on the pitch, and it all came to a head when he had a training ground bust-up with Ronaldo.

Ferguson left him on the bench for the last few games of that season, and on the very last game, van Nistelrooy reportedly marched out of the stadium after finding out he was being benched again.

Roy Keane

In the wake of a scathing rant at the performances of some of his own teammates, Ferguson had no choice but to let his captain go. His contract was terminated by mutual consent, but it had Ferguson written all over it. Keane was already in the twilight of his career, but still, few had imagined that Ferguson would remove his talismanic captain so ruthlessly.

Not again!

There’s a real sense of deja vu about the current Rooney situation – United fans have seen it before with the Beckham-Real Madrid saga.

Just as it was with Beckham, Rooney’s contract is now running out with just 18 months left on it, and United are under pressure to cash in soon with clubs from Spain already hovering around him.

The longer United wait to sell him, the more Rooney’s reported £50mil value will decrease, and United are rather desperate for cash these days. The bookies already have odds out for him leaving in the January transfer window.

Also, in the months before Beckham’s shock departure, Ferguson had often experimented by playing striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in Beckham’s position on the right, leaving the former England captain on the bench.

Ferguson seems to have started the same process with Rooney, trying out young Javier Hernandez in his place; and the latter’s goal-scoring exploits against West Brom last weekend would have done no favours for Rooney.

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