Moyes, addressing the subject for the first time since he agreed to take over as manager at Old Trafford, is expected to meet Rooney next week for discussions that may lead to the England international staying at the club.
Rooney, who was again booed by some fans during Monday’s trophy parade, has been locked in a stalemate with United since, according to Sir Alex Ferguson, he asked for a transfer last month.
Although United maintain Rooney is not for sale, pragmatically the best course for both sides may be for him to depart. There is, however, a standoff because of the difficulty of executing this option to suit player and club considering the limited number of suitors who can match United’s £40m valuation and Rooney’s £300,000-a-week salary.
Moyes, speaking at the Cambridge Union Society, was asked about Rooney’s progress since he sold him from Everton to Old Trafford. “I don’t watch all Manchester United games,” he replied. “But he is definitely one of the best players in the world.” He also recalled the talent Rooney had shown as a teenager at Everton. “I remember watching him during training and he was amazing,” he said. “We [the staff] asked each other: ‘Did he just do that?’ I believe he is the last street footballer, the kind like in Glasgow.”
Ferguson, the outgoing manager, said after Sunday’s 2-1 defeat of Swansea City that the striker lodged an official transfer request when they met three weeks ago. Yet this is disputed, with Rooney’s case apparently being that he was seeking only reassurances regarding his starting place and saying he would otherwise consider his future.
Although it is unclear if Rooney wishes to stay under Moyes, or if the new manager definitely wants him to, club and player may be stuck with each other given his desire to move to another of Europe’s elite teams.
With Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea currently uninterested, and Bayern Munich favourites to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Poland forward Robert Lewandowski, the number of clubs who can afford Rooney and his wage demands appears to be one, Paris Saint-Germain.
However, despite the French team having expressed an interest in him, it is doubtful it would appeal to the 27-year-old to move from the Premier League to the French first division. Rooney would also take into consideration that the future of Carlo Ancelotti, the coach, is in the balance as Real Madrid are interested in him replacing José Mourinho. PSG’s president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, said on Monday that he had rejected an approach from Madrid for the Italian.
As Rooney has only two years left remaining on his deal, United have to decide whether to offer him a new contract or offload him. Any fresh proposal is likely to include a reduced salary that Rooney would almost certainly reject. This throws up the possibility of him exercising the option that United want least – for him to play on under his current terms, allowing his contract to wind down.
Rooney will be conscious this would bolster his bargaining position significantly as the club would have to countenance the value of a prize asset decreasing, meaning he could be acquired for a cut-price rate next summer. Or, the forward could walk away for nothing in 2015, when his contract had expired, collecting a sizeable signing-on fee with the expectation that the buying club, having not paid for him, could afford to pay handsomely.
As the two sides manoeuvre for position, United and Rooney are conscious of the need to play the situation out best to the supporters and, more pertinently, the wider market.
Following Sunday’s game against Swansea, for which Rooney was again dropped from the match-day squad, Ferguson said: “I don’t think Wayne was keen to play, simply because he has asked for a transfer. I think he wants to think it through in his mind and I think that is a good idea. But we are not going to let him go. I just think he is maybe a bit frustrated about being taken off once or twice in the last few weeks.”
The root of the current tension between Ferguson and Rooney can be traced back to mid-February when the England international was played out of position at Real Madrid in the opening leg of a Champions League last-16 tie. Replaced after 84 minutes, Rooney was dropped from United’s 18-man squad for the next match, an FA Cup tie with Reading on 18 February. He was then only a second-half replacement at Queens Park Rangers on 23 February, and was not in the starting XI for the return leg with Madrid, to widespread surprise.
Moyes, who starts work as United manager immediately after Everton’s season ends on Sunday, has prioritized resolving Rooney‘s future as soon as possible. Yet given the difficulty in untangling the differing strands before any suitable agreement can be reached, the new manager may have an unwanted saga to deal with as he tries to bed in and get off to the best possible start as Ferguson’s replacement.