'Absolute chaos': Fergie fury at Rooney's GB Olympic call-up
21:58 GMT, 21 April 2012
Wayne Rooney is on the shortlist for the Great Britain Olympic football squad, even though Team GB manager Stuart Pearce has promised no one will play at both this summer's European Championship and the London Games.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that England's key striker is one of 10 Manchester United players on Pearce's latest list for London – which has infuriated United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ferguson claims that with many Premier League players expected to be involved in the Games, clubs' preparations for the new season – which starts only seven days after the Olympic final in London on August 11 – will be reduced to 'absolute chaos'.
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Last week Pearce, still nominally in charge of England's plans for Euro 2012, cut his Olympic squad from an initial 191 to a shortlist of 80.
And Ferguson was staggered to learn that Rooney's name was alongside those of teammates Ryan Giggs, Ashley Young, Ben Amos, Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick and Jonny Evans as Olympic possibles ahead of Tuesday's draw for the competition.
'It's ridiculous, utter chaos,' said Ferguson, who will also be losing players to the FA for the European Under-19 Championship. 'I have no idea how badly other clubs are affected but I would imagine Tottenham will have a few, like Gareth Bale. Aston Villa have a lot of younger players as well – that is all Alex McLeish needs.'
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Ferguson's anger has been provoked by Pearce's apparent desire to keep all his options open for the Olympic tournament, despite confirming in December:
'We have agreed that any player who boards the plane to the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine will not be considered for selection to Team GB.
'It's a sensible football decision when you consider the demands on players, and it now leaves no room for doubt for players and their clubs about next summer and the two major tournaments.'
Pearce does not have to name his 18-strong Team GB squad until July 8, seven days after the Euro 2012 final in Kiev. But England's participation in the tournament could be over long before then, even as early as their final group game against Ukraine on June 19.
With Rooney banned for the first two group games, the United striker faces the prospect of playing as little as 90 minutes at Euro 2012.
That would leave him still comparatively fresh, despite a heavy workload with United this season.
The Olympic organisers, with an eye on ticket sales for the football tournament, would love Rooney to take part.
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The 26-year-old has already expressed enthusiasm for being one of the three over-age players Pearce would be allowed to include in his squad. But there will be a huge outcry from United if Rooney is picked.
The Olympic men's football final will be played at Wembley just 24 hours before the regular 2012-13 season begins with the Community Shield.
The Premier League kicks off the following weekend on August 18 and the FA are trying to organise an England friendly in Switzerland on August 15.
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United have yet to confirm their summer tour schedule but they are in advanced negotiations to play in China and Korea and have discussed the feasibility of playing extra matches in South Africa. The absence of star players such as Rooney would be certain to disappoint the club's sponsors and commercial partners.
Ferguson said: 'We've got 10 players nominated [for the GB Olympics team] as well as David De Gea and Javier Hernandez. It's serious. This is the start of the season we're talking about. We'll be left with only one senior goalkeeper because Ben Amos has been nominated by Team GB and De Gea will be at the Olympics with Spain. The FA might also want five of our players for a European Under-19 tournament. We were intending to take them on pre-season tour. It's absolute chaos.'
Both affected: Alex Ferguson (centre) says Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish (right) will also be affected by Olympic call-ups
As Ferguson indicated, five of United's promising teenagers, including Will Keane and Ezekiel Fryers, will be required for the Under-19 Championship in Estonia in July.
England will play their final qualifying games in May but are expected to reach those finals. Ferguson will not be able to withdraw United players from the Olympics because the tournament has been officially endorsed by FIFA. But the world's governing body cannot force players to participate.
'I have no jurisdiction – it is up to the players themselves,' said Ferguson. 'But if the players don't want to go, there is nothing they [Team GB] can do.'