David Moyes steels himself for the battle to keep Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney and David Moyes will shake hands at Manchester United's Carrington training ground tomorrow as the as the new Manchester United manager begins in earnest his attempts to persuade the 27-year-old that his future lies with the club.
Manager and player met around four weeks ago, for in an initial encounter which allowed Rooney to get across his frustrations about his last season working with Sir Alex Ferguson. Tomorrow's first meeting among the squad at the club will come on a day when many players return to meet Moyes. Rooney has his pre-season fitness assessment tomorrow afternoon and since Moyes has the other players to meet individually, it is unclear whether he will have time to schedule the follow-up talks the two agreed to when they parted company for their summer holidays, a month ago. A meeting is scheduled this week between Rooney, his agent Paul Stretford, Moyes and United chief executive Ed Woodward, though that may not provide an instant resolution ahead of Moyes' first public press duties as United manager. The two sides may need to hear what the other says, disperse to consider their positions and return for a second group discussion at a later stage. Though United leave for their pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia next week, with Rooney scheduled to be on it, the issue could drag on through the summer.
Ferguson's former assistant manager Mike Phelan has said that Moyes will want to talk to Wayne Rooney without any of the player's entourage around as he tries to persuade him that his future lies at Old Trafford. There is a feeling at the highest level of Old Trafford that senior players have a vital role to play in winning Rooney over to the argument that he will not find a better environment to flourish than United. Phelan has told BBC Radio Manchester Red Wednesday's programme that Moyes and his chief executive Ed Woodward will initially want to see Rooney without the player's representatives. “I think he would want to talk to Wayne Rooney and just Wayne Rooney the football player,” Phelan said. “ The rest of it is part of Wayne's backroom team, as such.” A meeting has been convened between Moyes, Woodward, Rooney and his agent Paul Stretford, which is likely to take place tomorrow.
Moyes is likely to impress on Rooney that by staying at Old Trafford he can become an all-time legend and the club's top goalscorer, while at any other club he will be starting again with all the uncertainties that entails. All that is set against the allure that Chelsea and Jose Mourinho hold for him. Rooney is currently only 52 goals behind Sir Bobby Charlton on the all-time United goalscorers' chart. Going elsewhere may be more lucrative for him and will certainly be so for his representatives but Rooney is unlikely to establish the same status in another place.
"Wayne has proved he is a Manchester United [quality] player" Phelan said. "He is good enough to play at the level [he has reached.] Why would you want to jeopardise what you've got? An exciting future might be in front of you. He is already at a top, top club. There isn't a lot for him to go out and grasp that he hasn't already got.” Also weighing in United's favour is the fact that Rooney's family are settled in the north west and his wife, Coleen, is understood to favour being close to her family.
United are in no doubt that the reaction of the club's fans to Rooney is something that weighs on the player's mind, after his conversation two months ago with Ferguson which the former manager characterised as Rooney putting in a transfer request. If Rooney can be persuaded to consider staying, public assertions are expected from Moyes and Woodward smoothing over Ferguson's suggestions, when omitting Rooney from his own last home game as manager, that Rooney had demanded a transfer.
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