Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini believes it would be difficult to prise Wayne Rooney away from Old Trafford.
Alex Ferguson had attempted to put a lid on the speculation that has erupted around Rooney since he was dropped for Tuesday's Champions League defeat by Real Madrid.
The Rooney camp have kept their own counsel on the matter.
However, if the 27-year-old is overlooked again for this weekend's FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea, it is hard to see him having much of a future with the Red Devils.
Should a parting of the ways become a reality, few clubs could reasonably afford Rooney's enormous wages.
City are undoubtedly one. And they nearly landed Rooney once before, during the infamous 2010 contract stand-off.
But Mancini does not think it would be any easier to land the forward second time around.
"I have always had my opinion that for a player like Rooney it is difficult to leave - like two years ago, when there was a chance that he did - because he is an important player for United," the Italian said.
"In football we know everything is possible, but it is difficult."
Tomorrow's team selection is awaited with interest, although Ferguson has already declared Rooney will still be at United next season.
"Wayne will be here next year. You have my word on that," the Scot said.
"There is absolutely no issue between Wayne Rooney and I. To suggest we don't talk to each other on the training ground is absolute nonsense."
Ferguson is not beyond using words of defiance to create a smokescreen around an issue.
However, rather than avoid the issue as feared, Ferguson yesterday addressed the reasons behind Rooney's omission.
And he also said he expected to receive more criticism for leaving out Shinji Kagawa just three days after scoring a hat-trick against Norwich.
"No one even mentioned that I left out Shinji after his hat-trick on Saturday," he said. "I thought I might get more criticism for that."
It does seem that Rooney is vying with Kagawa for the right to partner Robin van Persie tomorrow, even if Javier Hernandez also has claims on a place given his recent form.
As ever though, the Scot is giving little away.
"He'll be involved on Sunday," Ferguson said.
"(But) I'm not prepared to give away my team. Why should I? Why should I help anyone? We don't do that."