DAVID MOYES will decide Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United future with the forward now open-minded about remaining at the club following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Having been confirmed as Ferguson’s successor as manager on a six-year contract last night, Moyes’s first task is likely to centre on resolving Rooney’s situation at the club.
Rooney told Ferguson last month that he wished to seek a new challenge this summer following a deterioration of their relationship
It is understood that, having not lodged an official transfer request, Rooney is now equivocal about his future following the appointment of Moyes, who handed him his debut as a 16-year-old at Everton.
While Moyes and Rooney’s relationship has not been without incident — the manager took the player to the High Court in a libel action in 2008 — there has since been a rapprochement, with the two now on good terms.
However, after securing a £250,000-a-week five-year contract following his infamous stand-off with the club in October 2010, when he threatened to leave in the wake of interest from Manchester City, Rooney has already taken United to the brink during negotiations over his future.
But despite the impression that Rooney once again holds the power in a battle of wills, the club’s hierarchy will leave the final decision in Moyes’s hands, rather than allow the player to dictate his destiny.
While both United and Rooney have dismissed suggestions of a rift with Ferguson, it is understood that their fractious relationship in recent months is at the heart of Rooney’s dissatisfaction, together with the player’s frustration at losing his regular position in United’s forward line.
With two years left to run on Rooney’s contract, however, the club have stated that the 27-year-old is not available for transfer. It is believed, though, that offers in excess of £20 million would be considered.
With Chelsea understood to be ready to move should United sanction his sale, Moyes could yet choose to authorise the player’s transfer to avoid the prospect of further disruption next season should Rooney fail to reclaim a first-team position.
Although Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez is a long-term admirer, Rooney is believed to favour a move within the Premier League, rather than abroad, should United allow him to leave.
Moyes’s arrival at Old Trafford when he formally leaves Everton will ultimately prove decisive in United’s handling of the situation. The pair endured the much-publicised breakdown in their relationship when Moyes sued Rooney in 2008 following criticism from the player in his autobiography, which saw Rooney criticise Moyes’s management style during his time at Everton.
In a writ issued at the High Court in London, Moyes claimed allegations made in the book had “injured his professional and personal reputation and caused serious embarrassment and distress”.
However, Moyes settled his action following an apology from Rooney and the pair have been reconciled since 2009, when the Scot received a phone call from the player in which he admitted to making a mistake with the comments in his book.
Despite his below-par performances this season, and repeated claims by Ferguson that he was lacking match sharpness, Rooney has nonetheless scored 16 goals in 31 appearances during an injury-interrupted campaigned.
Should he play in the final two games of the season against Swansea and West Bromwich Albion, Rooney will move level with Denis Law on 404 appearances for the club and could yet break the 200-goal barrier if he scores three goals during the next 180 minutes.
Moyes, who will end an 11-year reign at Goodison Park on May 19 to take over at United, was described as the “unanimous choice” for the job by Ferguson, whose backing for the 50-year-old saw the club’s owners, the Glazer family, pass up the opportunity to pursue Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho.
“When we discussed the candidates that we felt had the right attributes, we unanimously agreed on David Moyes,” Ferguson said. “David is a man of great integrity with a strong work ethic.
“I’ve admired his work for a long time and approached him as far back as 1998 to discuss the position of assistant manager here. There is no question he has all the qualities we expect of a manager at this club.”
Moyes, who was billed by Sir Bobby Charlton as “someone who understands the things that make this such a special club,” will officially begin work at Old Trafford on July 1. He admits that he faces a daunting challenge in succeeding Ferguson, who will rack up 1500 games in charge of United in his final fixture at West Bromwich Albion next week.
“It’s a great honour to be asked to be the next manager of Manchester United,” Moyes said. “I am delighted that Sir Alex saw fit to recommend me for the job. I have great respect for everything he has done and for the football club and I know how hard it will be to follow the best manager ever.
“But the opportunity to manage Manchester United isn’t something that comes around very often and I’m really looking forward to taking up the post next season.
“I have had a terrific job at Everton, with a tremendous chairman and board of directors and a great set of players. Between now and the end of the season, I will do everything in my power to make sure we finish as high as possible in the table.”