David Moyes talks up 'leadership' of Wayne Rooney, after talisman accepts Manchester United midfield role in win over West Ham

Wayne Rooney was quite happy to play in midfield for David Moyes on Saturday

A grinning Wayne Rooney lingered on the grass for a while and was the last man to leave the pitch, strolling away in easy conversation with Carlton Cole like he owned the place. This was a Rooney who had just spent the afternoon in midfield, precisely the location which antagonised him so much when Sir Alex Ferguson asked him to play there. The powers to recover the Rooney we once knew are the singular most remarkable aspect of the David Moyes era.

He has now made more assists – eight – than any other player in the Premier League this season and though the goalscoring has not quite reached the rapacious levels of Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero, the contribution has been more complete. Manchester United winning the battle to keep him has been every bit as significant as Liverpool holding on to Suarez.

“Do you know what I see more than anything in Wayne? I see leadership,” the United manager reflected after a 3-1 win which felt like a restoration of the old United, too, despite West Ham United’s anaemia. “I see somebody who wants to take responsibility for the team. I see somebody who cares for how he plays and how the team plays.

“Maybe if he is not quite at the top of his form, I will need him to drop in at times and he has no problem doing any of the jobs. He is getting to an age now where he realises he is not a boy any more. I think he is saying: ‘I have got to take responsibility for results and for performances and make sure the players are doing it on the pitch’.”

That felt like a fair assessment, though the entire balance of the team was transformed from the dismal defeat to Newcastle United of two weeks ago which left you wondering how Moyes might turn things around. The midfield four that day felt flat, old fashioned and ill-suited to Phil Jones – too immobile for that set up.

Saturday’s more flexible system – a less flat midfield quartet – played to Jones’s defensive prowess, allowing Tom Cleverley to head off and create with Rooney. Moyes quite reasonably said it was the best we had seen from his team in the Premier League. There was a tempo which has been missing before.

The opposition hardly permits a detailed critique of United’s central defence but in the 10th successive game without the Rio Ferdinand/Nemanja Vidic partnership there was a security about Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans, who has found his level after a difficult start to the Moyes era.

“I said to [Evans] I didn’t think he started the season well. But he has grown into it and is playing very well,” Moyes said. Smalling looked assured, too; beginning several of the counter-attacking moves which saw United burst out like days of yore. His quality on the ball creates a sense that he should seize it more.

Moyes is reaping the benefits of that onerous string of early fixtures he was so unhappy about, while others chasing top-four places are busy playing each other. United’s only uncertainties about Christmas have been logistical. They go to Hull and Norwich this week, and Moyes considered travelling directly between the two cities. He decided against it, reflecting that three days on the road would not have delighted his players.

Sam Allardyce has far more to worry about. It’s never great when your supporters sing: “You’re nothing special; we lose every week” and the West Ham manager’s suggestion that money is the issue – “where you actually finish in the league depends on the money you’ve spent. It’s a statistical fact that” – doesn’t wash. West Ham were 11th in the list of summer spenders, though wages generally dictate the finishing position.

“It makes no difference to me – other results. They are neither here nor there,” Allardyce was in the process of saying as he walked into his Old Trafford press conference. But though the return of Stewart Downing, Ricardo Vaz Te, Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll may, as he says, make a difference, other results are beginning to matter a lot. On Saturday, West Ham were dismal.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own