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Rooney statement denies rift with Owen

Wayne Rooney has dismissed talk of a rift with England strike partner Michael Owen.

Amid reports the Manchester United star has amassed a £700,000 gambling debt, there have been suggestions Rooney is furious with Owen for letting him get sucked so heavily into the betting scene.

But a spokesmen for Rooney, and his management company Proactive Sports Management, has this afternoon flatly denied the claims.

'Any suggestion of a rift or a dispute between Wayne and Michael are completely without foundation as far as Wayne is concerned,' he said.

'Wayne and Michael remain the best of pals.'

The statement will go some way to easing the concerns of England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, who intends to speak with Rooney and other senior players over the allegations about rifts in the national camp.

Several of Rooney's England team-mates are also reported to have embarked on heavy gambling stints, although none have accrued losses to such an extreme figure.

Eriksson's mission - through informal chats - will be to determine whether any issues have arisen between players as a consequence.

If it does transpire there is unrest, the Swede would seek to nip the problem in the bud, given only five weeks remain until England's World Cup squad travel to southern Portugal for a pre-tournament training camp.

Rooney seemed to show no ill effects from the adverse headlines as he turned in a man of the match display in yesterday's 2-0 win over Arsenal at Old Trafford, after which manager Sir Alex Ferguson came out swinging in his player's defence.

'It is pathetic,' said Ferguson.

'We have had this with George Best, we had it with Paul Gascoigne and we had it with David Beckham.

'We know Wayne Rooney. It is rubbish and we shall dismiss it the best we can.'

PFA deputy chief executive Mick McGuire is due to speak with Rooney's advisors early to try and determine the extent of the 20-year-old's problem.