Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has not ruled out the prospect of Wayne Rooney leaving the club this month.
The 31-year-old England forward, who scored his 250th United goal last month to become the club’s record scorer, has been linked with a move to China in recent weeks.
The Chinese Super League’s transfer window shuts next week and Mourinho was asked if the club captain would still be at Old Trafford by then.
“You have to ask him,” Mourinho said.
“Of course I can’t guarantee [he will be here]. I can’t guarantee that I’m here next week, how can I guarantee that a player is here next season?”
Rooney is contracted to United until 2019 and had previously said he was committed to seeing out his deal.
He has not been a first-team regular this season and has scored just five goals.
However, Mourinho said in October that Rooney was “going nowhere” and reiterated on Tuesday that he did not want him to leave.
“I would never push – or try to push – a legend of this club to another destiny,” added the Portuguese coach.
“So you have to ask him if he sees himself staying in the club for the rest of his career or if he sees himself moving.
“It is not a question for me because I am happy to have him. I don’t want him to leave.”
BBC Sport’s Simon Stone
There is a clear sense now that time is ticking down on Rooney’s Manchester United career.
Less than a month after Rooney eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton to become the club’s record goalscorer, manager Jose Mourinho delivered the kind of response he came out with when he was asked about the futures of Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay during the January transfer window.
Schneiderlin and Depay ended up leaving for Everton and Lyon respectively. And at 31, with 549 United appearances and 250 goals to his name, Rooney seems destined to experience the same fate.
It might not happen now. Rooney is known to be coveted by the Chinese Super League, who would offer vast sums to get the England captain to join Carlos Tevez and Oscar in the exodus east, but twice over the past few days I have been told such a move before the 28 February deadline is unlikely.
However, the end is in sight and Rooney’s camp will doubtless spend the next few months exploring options.
Rooney has the carrot of knowing if he can remain in the England fold until next year’s World Cup, he is likely to become his country’s most-capped player, in addition to its record goalscorer.
Whether he can do that from China is doubtful, and though former team-mate David Beckham eked out the end of his England days in Major League Soccer with LA Galaxy, it is by no means certain Gareth Southgate would offer the same opportunity to a player who has plenty of competition for his number 10 role.
This is the reality that is likely to focus minds because, four years after it seemed to be happening under Sir Alex Ferguson, it now seems a question of when, not if, Rooney leaves Old Trafford for good.
Martial determined to stay at Old Trafford
Meanwhile, Rooney’s team-mate Anthony Martial insists he wants to stay at the club “for as long as possible”.
The 21-year-old has struggled to recapture the form shown during his debut season at Old Trafford and was linked with a loan move to Sevilla in December.
“I love Manchester, I love the club and I love the fans,” Martial said.
“The fans give me a lot of joy and I really enjoy having them backing me. I try to be as good as possible to make them happy, to satisfy them.”