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Man Utd’s links to Rice have Moyes fearing Rooney repeat as West Ham brace for transfer battle

18:29 EAT 08/02/2020
Declan Rice West Ham 2019-20
The Hammers boss once saw the Red Devils raid his Everton squad for a prized asset and concedes a repeat could be on the cards in the summer of 2020

David Moyes fears he may have another Wayne Rooney-style situation on his hands in Declan Rice, with his former employers Manchester United sniffing around another top talent that he is working with at West Ham.

Back in 2004, the then Everton manager saw the Red Devils raid his ranks at Goodison Park for a player of considerable promise.

Rooney went on to spend 13 years at Old Trafford, becoming United’s all-time leading goalscorer and spending a brief spell working under the guidance of Moyes again.

It could be that Rice, another England international, is the next player to be targeted by the Red Devils in a big-money move.

Moyes appreciates that he may find it difficult to retain the services of the 21-year-old midfielder, especially as West Ham currently find themselves locked in a Premier League relegation battle.

The Hammers boss said when quizzed on the exit talk raging around Rice: “In my mind he is arguably the best holding midfield player in the country and the best thing about Declan is he will get better.

“Declan is carrying a lot of the team at the moment and he’s the one who will carry on from Mark Noble when it comes to an end for him.

“Quite often when building a club you have to sell.

“I hope it’s not the case with Declan but I said the same with Wayne Rooney and Joleon Lescott [at Everton].

“But the team got better because we were able to sign the right players to replace them.

“If that ever came around [that Rice leaves] I’d hope we’d be able to do the same here as well.”

Rice is a product of West Ham’s academy system, having linked up with the Hammers in 2014 on the back of a spell in Chelsea’s youth ranks.

He made a senior breakthrough as a promising centre-half, but was soon nudged into a holding midfield role.

The youngster has thrived in that post, allowing him to switch international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland to England while attracting admiring glances from leading sides across Europe.

It could be that his long-term future lies outside of east London, but his focus for now is locked on helping Moyes oversee another successful survival bid – with West Ham inside the Premier League’s bottom three at present but only one point from safety.