Is Mourinho deliberately biding his time with Wayne Rooney?

Reports suggest Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is willing to wait until summer to sign Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney. But was this his plan all along?

Love him or loathe him, Jose Mourinho is a master of mind games.

The Portuguese will do anything from lambasting his own players to turning a hardened enemy into his new best friend - if it benefits him.

When it comes to signing a world-class striker, then, the Chelsea boss is bound to have a few tricks up his sleeve.

To that end, a report in the Telegraph last night suggested that the 50-year-old has decided not to sign a new forward this January in order to wait until summer to land Manchester United ace Wayne Rooney. But what if this was his plan all along?

Mourinho, of course, is no stranger to big-money transfers. The Portuguese has seen high-profile internationals both come and go at his previous clubs. And signing a striker from a rival, more specifically, is nothing new either (see a certain Samuel Eto'o, now signed by Mourinho twice).

His handling of the Rooney situation - a saga in the making - must thus be keenly observed. Too readily has Mourinho appeared to brush off his interest in the England striker, admitting defeat rather early in the battle.

But what if the 50-year-old foresaw Manchester United's current predicament, taking the gamble of assuming that David Moyes would struggle in his first season at Old Trafford?

With Sir Alex Ferguson gone, Mourinho may have been sceptical about the direction in which United would now move, while the Chelsea boss may also have identified Rooney as one of the first key figures who could become available because of it.

Meanwhile, the Blues' front trio of Fernando Torres, Eto'o and Demba Ba have remained at Stamford Bridge for the time being, leaving Chelsea with enough cover up front until any potential new arrivals could take their place.

United have duly struggled and, if they fail to qualify for the Champions League - they are seventh, five points off fourth-placed Liverpool - will Rooney stick around? He has hardly been quick to pledge his allegiance with a new deal. In fact, the England forward is now in a position to buy his current contract out.

Chelsea couldn't lure Rooney from Old Trafford in the summer but the foundations for a future move were laid. Mourinho's door will always be open to the 28-year-old - and what if he were to swoop in when Rooney's United future was at its most vulnerable?

Indeed by doing absolutely nothing, Mourinho may have just played the best card available to him. And it could prove a real stroke of genius.

image: © nasmac

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for CHELSEA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch