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BANGKOK (AFP) – Intense speculation over Wayne Rooney's future looks set to dominate the headlines this week as Manchester United begin their new era under David Moyes at the start of a bumper series of pre-season tours to Asia.
Moyes's first outing as United boss, starting with Saturday's friendly in Bangkok, will be forensically scrutinised for clues about the want-away star, who made a transfer request just before the departure of legendary boss Alex Ferguson.
Britain's Daily Mail on Tuesday linked Rooney with a 60-million-pound ($90-million) bid from United's English Premier League rivals Chelsea -- who also arrive in the Thai capital this week, led by returning manager Jose Mourinho.
The new starts by Moyes and Mourinho, and the opening of the July-August transfer window, will put extra focus on this year's Asian visits with Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester City and Spurs also among the clubs headed east.
With Manchester City led by incoming manager Manuel Pellegrini, the three biggest powers of English football will all be under new leadership during the pre-season spree, spread over a giant arc from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney.
Arsenal will break new ground by becoming the first Premiership team to play in Vietnam, indicating a widening reach for a competition that is hugely popular in Asia and earns a significant share of its income from the region.
Liverpool's tour of Indonesia, Australia and Thailand will be under the microscope for news about striker Luis Suarez, while Moyes will also face questions about the possible return of Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
It is a sign of the times that Moyes will make his United bow not at Old Trafford or even Oxford's Manor Road -- where Ferguson debuted in 1986 -- but at Rajamangala Stadium in suburban Bangkok, against a Thai All-Star XI.
But the ex-Everton manager may be glad to run the rule over his squad, and make inroads towards retaining Rooney, away from the full glare of the English media as he faces the unenviable task of following Ferguson's 38-trophy reign.
"Whoever was going to take over this job knows what the manager did before," Moyes said this week. "The manager before was incredible. His achievements, there are no better.
"All I can do is what David Moyes has done before. I will definitely continue the traditions of Manchester United, but I have to put my own stamp on the club."
Mourinho is also hoping to build a legacy in his second stint at Chelsea, after forays to Inter Milan and Real Madrid, and is likely to parade new signings Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel during the club's tour to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The Portuguese, styling himself as the "Happy One" after returning to London, is said to be on the look-out for a new target man while he chews over the future of erratic striker Fernando Torres, as well as veteran club captain John Terry.
Manchester United head to Sydney after Bangkok and they will also visit Japan, home country of their forward Shinji Kagawa, as well as Hong Kong.
Arsenal are playing in Jakarta and Hanoi before also heading to Japan, where their games include a fixture against Nagoya Grampus, former club of their manager Arsene Wenger.
Manchester City, Spurs and Sunderland are due to play a mini-tournament in Hong Kong and Spanish giants Barcelona will visit Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, in early August.
Many of the players, household names across much of Asia, can expect a rock-star welcome from fans with packed houses for the friendly games, and even their training sessions.
European football has an enormous following in the region with the Premier League set to reap a big increase in overseas TV revenues after the latest round of negotiations.