Last week, it was revealed in this space that bookmakers had re-opened the market on the Barclays English Premier League and the beautiful game's relationship with gambling continues to dominate the headlines. Footballers having a bet is nothing new but it was revelations of Wayne Rooney`s alleged GBP700,000 gambling debt that had everyone in a flutter. Rooney is alleged to owe the sum to a private bookmaker and business partner of Michael Owen, and if the stories are to be believed the episode is causing a rift between the international strike partners — just two months before the World Cup. They insist they are "the best of pals" but England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will still address the issue of gambling among the players.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, however, is of the opinion that things have been blown out of all proportion. He blasted the reports as "absolute rubbish" but admitted his fears that Rooney's every move will make headline news, adding: "It was George Best in the 1960s, then Paul Gascoigne and David Beckham — — they (the media) are searching for someone to fill a headline, so Wayne is manna from heaven for them and it's nonsense."

Ferguson's team's late surge had little impact on Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who certainly believed all the while the Premier League title was a sure thing. Mourinho told the club's supporters: "You waited 50 years for the league title, some of you waited all your lives — now you can wait a few more weeks for a second one. This team has almost the same players that gave you the Premier League last season and the same staff and manager, so I believe we deserve credit, respect, support and confidence." All this was said when United had not yet ended its nine-match wining streak this week with the draw against Sunderland.

Brian Lee

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