Moyes takes step back in dispute with Rooney

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The Independent Football

David Moyes has had talks with his young striker Wayne Rooney in an attempt to heal the rift between the pair that developed at the weekend.

The Everton manager spoke to Rooney to explain that he did not mean to set him up for a fall by criticising his advertising trip to Madrid last week on the day he was substituted during the defeat against Bolton Wanderers. He has also been strong enough to admit to the teenager that it was bad timing on his part.

Moyes was taken aback by the fuss caused by his decision to substitute Rooney after just 54 minutes and does not want a festering row with the youngster. Rooney was upset after being taken off but the pair have mended some of their differences after the chat at Everton's Bellefield training ground.

"I subbed Tommy Gravesen and nobody has asked me why I did that," Moyes said, "so I find it strange when I take off an 18-year-old and I get asked about it. I substitute people every week and I never get asked about that, and yes, Rooney will be involved at Middlesbrough [in tonight's Carling Cup tie]."

Moyes does, however, have to decide whether to keep Rooney, who has scored once in 11 games this season, in tonight's starting line-up or give Francis Jeffers only his second Everton start since his return on loan from Arsenal in the summer.

Moyes' plans are further complicated because Rooney and Tomasz Radzinski have not worked together in attack and neither of his other striking options - Kevin Campbell or Duncan Ferguson - is available.

Moyes is also without Steve Watson, David Weir, Alessandro Pistone and Scot Gemmill for the tie, and has a doubt over Joseph Yobo, who has a neck injury.

Everton will need to be sharp in attack as Boro have not conceded in their last five League games, a new club record, and that is the result of a conscious decision to make themselves more difficult to beat.

Boro are unbeaten in six games in all competitions after Sunday's 1-0 win at Manchester City. They have only lost two of the last 11, and the Boro manager, Steve McClaren, said: "I remember being at Manchester United [as assistant manager] and always saying that those 1-0 victories are great results. They're the ones that win you things at the end of the season."