As moves stall, Moyes left to answer the Rooney question
“Missing out on players has led some United fans to fear new manager lacks pulling power”
Robin van Persie of Manchester United and manager David Moyes pose with the trophy after victory in the FA Community Shield
The ease of Manchester United’s victory over Wigan yesterday will have come as a relief to David Moyes, after a pre-season that had done little to dispel the mood of foreboding around the beginning of the post-Ferguson era.
It was one of those awkward matches where there was little for United to gain and potentially a lot to lose. Happily for Moyes, Robin van Persie looks ready to start the season in the same goalscoring form in which he finished the last.
Van Persie’s display was reassuring since the only trouble Moyes has had from within the club has come from the man he appeared to appoint van Persie’s understudy, Wayne Rooney. Rooney did not play yesterday but again the post-match press conference centred on the Rooney question.
Moyes insisted he had not fallen out with Rooney and accused journalists of spreading “untruths” about their relationship. His irritation centred on reports that Rooney had trained with the reserves after a bust-up with Moyes, whereas Moyes said he had done so at his own request. But that has not been the only recent sign of friction between the two.
It’s a fact that last week Rooney posted a Facebook message thanking Roy Hodgson for “showing faith” in him by picking him for England. This was widely interpreted as a dig at Moyes, who had not used him in recent friendlies, apparently because of injury. Perhaps Moyes was objecting to the meaning being read into this message, but if it was not Rooney’s intention to make a such a point it seemed an odd thing for him to say, since he has been an automatic pick for England for the last 10 years.
Before that, someone “close to” Rooney put out a line that one of the reasons why the player wants to leave Manchester United is that he feels Alex Ferguson will continue to influence what happens at the club. The ostensible purpose of that message was to justify Rooney’s desire to leave on the dubious basis that he believes Ferguson’s beef with him means he won’t be treated fairly. The inescapable implicit subtext was that Moyes is merely a puppet, the Medvedev to Ferguson’s Putin.
There has been no public reaction from Moyes to a line that seemed specifically designed to insult and undermine him, but you suspect that had he managed to sign Thiago Alcantara or Cesc Fabregas, Rooney might already have been sold.
Missing out on those players has led to fears among some United supporters that the new manager lacks the pulling power Alex Ferguson had. That is to forget how often Ferguson himself missed out on high-profile signings. Alan Shearer joined Blackburn and then Newcastle, Marcelo Salas joined Lazio, Ronaldinho joined Barcelona, Harry Kewell joined Liverpool, Arjen Robben joined Chelsea, Mesut Özil joined Real Madrid, Samir Nasri joined Manchester City, and last summer Lucas Moura joined PSG.