Rooney dilemma casts early cloud over Moyes reign

The new Man United manager will once again cross paths with the player he reluctantly sold as an 18-year-old, but England's talisman might never play under the new boss
By Wayne Veysey & Liam Twomey

David Moyes and Wayne Rooney have history.

It is the kind that has lined the pockets of lawyers and forced two proud men into holding out public olive branches.

Yet, as far as Rooney is concerned, the hatchet has not been completely buried. understands that England's most celebrated player is hostile to the idea of playing again under the man who handed him his debut in professional football.

Sir Alex Ferguson was sat in the managers' office at Manchester United when Rooney declared two weeks ago that he wanted a transfer at the end of the season.

But it is no coincidence that news of Rooney's unofficial transfer request did not filter into the public domain until it had become clear late on Wednesday that Moyes was to be unveiled as Sir Alex's successor.

Already faced with winning over a section of the United fan base who are unconvinced by his appointment, the most pressing item in the 50-year-old's in-tray when he slips into his friend and ally's seat is the immediate future of the club's most high profile player.

Moyes will no doubt trot out the party line that Rooney is not for sale at any cost, and that the forward will be one of the key players in his squad next season.

Yet the 27-year-old and his representatives have drawn out the battle lines to pave the way for a head-on collision between England's biggest club and player.

Moyes will have been well briefed about the situation by Ferguson and senior United officials, with a strategy no doubt already in place.

If United play hard ball, as the two years remaining on Rooney's contract fully entitles them to, the club risks a marked depreciation in value of one of their most saleable assets. They also risk the player downing tools and going out of his way to engineer a move, as Luka Modric, Robin van Persie and Clint Dempsey all did to varying degrees last summer.

A club of United's power and clout is not in the habit of getting pushed around and can flex its muscles when it needs to.

But there will privately be an appreciation that selling Rooney might not be the doomsday scenario it was in October 2010, when he first tried to tunnel his way out of Old Trafford.

The suspicion harboured by Ferguson and several other key members of United’s technical staff is that Rooney has passed his peak and that his lifestyle is not conducive to the kind of longevity enjoyed by Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.

At the very least, he is not considered to be currently producing the consistently decisive form expected of someone on an eye-watering £250,000-a-week, signed in the aftermath of that first shock transfer request two-and-a-half years ago.

Robin van Persie’s goals this season have relegated United’s No.10 from main man to a mere member of the supporting cast, while Shinji Kagawa’s improving form could further diminish Rooney's leading light status.

With Arsenal and Chelsea declaring their interest in signing Rooney this summer, and Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich closely monitoring developments from the Continent, a powerplay dogfight is in store in the coming weeks.

It is one made all the more intriguing given Rooney's and Moyes' shared past.

Reflecting on his sensational breakthrough at Everton 11 years ago, Rooney claimed he felt suffocated by Moyes. In the autobiography written when he was 20, he described his old boss as overbearing, controlling and ultimately responsible for his decision to move to Old Trafford for £25million in 2004.

Rooney even alleged the Scot had leaked details of a confidential conversation to the Liverpool Echo. Moyes sued for libel and won and, although both men publicly insisted the matter was resolved, the suggestion of bad blood behind the scenes remained.

Time had appeared to be a healer. In February 2010, Moyes revealed Rooney had called to apologise for his actions and was well received. The Scot has even mounted something of a charm offensive, insisting he would welcome Rooney back at Everton and, last October, acknowledged the striker’s part in his own career rise. “I have always believed Wayne helped me as a manager,” he admitted. “I'll always be grateful he was here, ready to break into the team, when I arrived.”

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These could now be interpreted as the comments of a man who might have had more than a mere inkling he would cross paths with his former charge again.

Yet, as far as Rooney appears to be concerned, the old feud is not settled. The player is believed to have met the news of Moyes' impending arrival on Wednesday morning with a few disparaging comments to colleagues.

Given his willingness to tell Ferguson of his intentions a fortnight ago, Rooney is unlikely to be put off by the presence of another feisty Scot in the dugout.

United had been ready to offer Rooney a new four-year deal this summer but they would be unlikely to match the terms of his current package, preferring instead to present a more incentivised contract alongside a lower basic wage.

That is unlikely to be palatable to the player and his long-time agent Paul Stretford, who want to test the market and see what is on offer elsewhere.

Any transfer would have to be approved by Moyes and sanctioned by the board, who will soon welcome Ferguson as one of its new directors.

There would be other hurdles to overcome, including the input of kit manufacturers of Nike, who have stressed the importance of Rooney remaining at Old Trafford as part of their continuing commercial partnership with United.

Moreover, Moyes and senior club officials might weigh up Rooney's match-winning talents with his capacity for causing disruption and discreetly let suitors know their asking price.

But, for both parties, it might be best for Rooney to be part of the club's history rather than future.

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