Manchester United boss David Moyes has warned Jose Mourinho that Wayne Rooney is not for sale after the Chelsea manager had once again spoken of his admiration for the striker.
Mourinho hinted at his first press conference since returning as Chelsea boss last month that he would relish the chance to bring Rooney to Stamford Bridge and his latest comments to the media in Bangkok at the start of their pre-season tour added fuel to the fire.
When asked about a possible offer for Rooney, Mourinho did his best to dodge the question, yet he could not resist praising the striker who left United's pre-season tour early on Friday after suffering a hamstring injury.
"He's a player that I like very much, being fast and direct I like him very much, but he's a Manchester United player," Mourinho said. "It's a funny, tricky question from an ethical point of view as I can't talk about players from other teams, but it is not my character to speak with hypocrisy, I always tell what I see."
Now Moyes, also facing the press in Bangkok on United's own pre-season jaunt, was quick to move to silence Mourinho: "People are entitled to talk about good players. I'm getting asked plenty of questions about Wayne. Jose has been asked about players as well.
"It's hard to keep repeating myself but I will – Wayne is a Manchester United player and it will remain that way. I think Jose said, in his comments that he doesn't normally talk about other players. But it does happen.
"I think I've covered all of the things on Wayne. I've given you everything about his injury. What you must remember is that Manchester United is a football club and I've got a team, and this is not about any one individual. In many ways, I'm only interested in the team. I will answer questions on Wayne, but some of them are just reverting back to things I've covered."
The conspiracy theorists viewed Rooney's quick return from United's pre-season world tour on Thursday as a sign that he may be the subject of transfer interest after a summer of intense speculation over his future at Old Trafford, and Moyes earlier denied there is anything sinister afoot.
"The day we left Manchester for the tour, Wayne just felt his hamstring tighten up right at the end of training and we thought there would be no problem," Moyes told MUTV. "After the long flight, we decided we'd get him tested and scanned and have a look at things and there is just a small grade one injury there.
"He didn't train yesterday and we thought it would be worth just seeing what it was and there was a very slight mark on his hamstring. We won't take any chances, there is no point in taking him any further round the world so we've sent him back and he'll get treatment at home."
Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Arsenal have also been linked with a move to sign Rooney this summer.