Steve Claridge, a reformed gambler who is now plying his trade with Walsall, has advised Wayne Rooney to learn the lessons and move on from a reported £700,000 betting binge.

While Rooney, the 20-year-old Manchester United striker, has quickly moved to quash weekend media speculation that his gambling debts have led to a rift with England strike partner Michael Owen, Claridge believes that the player should not ignore some valuable warning signs.

Claridge laid bare his extraordinary gambling tales in his autobiography, Tales from the Boot Camp.

While he does not believe Rooney's problem has spiralled out of control just yet, he has some valuable advice for the brilliant striker.

"He has to learn his lesson," said the striker, who includes Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers among his 21 stopping-off points in a colourful career in football.

"I hope this has hurt him because if it has, he will stop.

"People are saying he is a gambling addict, but that isn't the case. To a normal man, the scale of that gambling debt is huge but £700,000 could just be a bit of fun to Wayne Rooney.

"It is all relative and that sum is just under a third of what he earns in a year. However, I don't care who he is or what he does. In 20 years' time, if he is still betting like that, he won't have a penny to his name."

Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, has already hit out at the lurid headlines that surrounded Rooney at the weekend and the player himself has totally rejected speculation of a dispute with Owen. Owen's business partner, Stephen Smith, is believed to be owed money by Rooney.

"Any suggestion of a rift or a dispute between Wayne and Michael are completely without foundation, as far as Wayne is concerned," a spokesman for Rooney said. "Wayne and Michael remain the best of pals."

The statement will no doubt help ease the fears of Sven-Goran Eriksson, the England head coach, who needs harmony so soon before the World Cup.

Rooney showed no illeffects from the betting trauma on Sunday when he turned in a man-of-the-match performance in United's 2-0 win over Arsenal.

"Look at my performance and answer that yourself," was Rooney's reply when asked whether publication of his supposed gambling problem had played on his mind before the game.

While his advisers, Eriksson, and the Professional Footballers' Association attempt to establish the precise truth of the situation, Rooney wants to start letting his feet do the talking again.

The wonderful goal which set United on the road to their ninth successive Premiership win on Sunday was a reminder of the former Everton player's sublime talent.

And, even though the Red Devils remain seven points adrift of Chelsea with only five games of the campaign left, Rooney has not totally given up hope that his first full season at Old Trafford could end with him being crowned a Premiership champion.

He said: "We had a few dodgy results at the beginning of the season but we have just stuck together and pulled ourselves through.

"We are starting to play some great football now. We are looking forward to matches and we just want to win our games. If the situation with Chelsea changes, we would be delighted, but all we can do is try to win our last five games."