David Moyes’s first challenge on succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager will be to persuade Wayne Rooney to stay at the club after the striker asked to leave a fortnight ago.
Rooney held showdown talks with Ferguson in which the 27-year-old told the outgoing manager he wanted a fresh start. But Ferguson informed Rooney, who has two years remaining on his contract, the wish would not be granted and that he still had a future at United.
On Wednesday night a United spokesperson said: “Wayne Rooney is not for sale.” The Liverpudlian has had an uneven season in which he has been played out of position by Ferguson and was dropped for the club’s biggest match, the Champions League last-16 second-leg meeting with Real Madrid in February.
Moyes, who was identified months ago by United as their ideal candidate to replace Ferguson whenever their manager stood down, was Rooney’s first manager when the striker broke into the Everton side in 2002.
After Rooney moved to United two years later, he and Moyes fell out, with the Scot suing the player regarding allegations he made in an autobiography. But after Rooney made a personal apology three years ago the pair’s relationship is thought to be healthy.
Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Bayern Munich may be among potential suitors for Rooney but, with his demand to leave coming before the surprise decision of Ferguson to retire, Moyes’s arrival may change the dynamic and convince Rooney he can make a fresh start under him.
The champions moved quickly to replace British football’s most highly decorated manager once a tearful Ferguson told executives two days ago that he would be stepping down. Confirmation regarding a 1 July appointment of Moyes is expected within the next 24 hours and may be as early as Thursday lunchtime after he has informed his Everton players of his decision. A source close to Moyes did not deny he will take over from Ferguson, who guided United to a 20th title this season.
United’s desire to secure Moyes took Everton by surprise, with the Merseyside club aggrieved they did not receive the courtesy of an official approach from the champions. However, as Moyes’s contract with Everton expires on 30 June United were not required to do so.
The news had been so unexpected at Goodison Park that until 2pm on Wednesday, four hours after Ferguson made his plans public, Everton’s chairman, Bill Kenwright, had no idea that Moyes was wanted by United.
Moyes took training day morning, before saying to the squad only: “I’m off to Chelsea”. He then went by car with his brother and agent to London, where he met Kenwright and informed him of his decision.
As things stand, the 50-year-old’s normal press duties on Friday have not been cancelled and he is due to lead Everton for the visit of West Ham on Sunday, the same day that Ferguson oversees his last home game for United, against Swansea City, with huge tributes to the 71-year-old expected. Moyes can expect a good reception from the Goodison Park crowd before he ends 11 years in charge of Everton at Chelsea on the season’s final day on 19 May.
David Gill, United’s chief executive, outlined the desired criteria for Ferguson’s successor. “If you look at what happened in our two most successful eras, with Sir Matt Busby and then Sir Alex, we had managers there who sort of got involved with the whole aspects of the club,” he told MUTV. “Clearly he’s got to have the requisite football experience in terms of domestic and European experience.”
These criteria could be viewed as a hint towards the qualities of Moyes, who has built Everton from the bottom up. While he has never won a trophy, the Scot has experience of managing in the Uefa Cup (now the Europa League) and one attempt at guiding Everton in the Champions League during the 2005-06 season, though the club failed to qualify for the group stages. Ferguson, a key voice in selecting a successor, also admires Moyes and is understood to have advised the board to appoint him.
An emotional Ferguson broke the news of his retirement to players and staff at the club’s training complex, Carrington, early on Wednesday morning, having arrived there just before 7am. His squad were told to report an hour early for a meeting that took place at 8.50am, during which Ferguson told them he would be stepping down, after becoming manager in 1986.
The 71-year-old then spoke with his backroom team before his final meeting with the rest of the club staff, during which some broke down as the Scot thanked them for their commitment to United.
In a statement, Ferguson said: “The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time. It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so. The quality of this league-winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one.”
Rooney and Robin van Persie led a group of players at Chester Races yesterday where they saw Ferguson’s horse Butterfly McQueen placed second in the 3.50pm and collect winnings of £2,310. Yet until 6pm, when Rio Ferdinand became the first player to react publicly to Ferguson’s decision, the squad had remained tight-lipped.
In a tweet the defender said: “The bosses work ethic, his desire to win + to make us better players were unrivalled. Thanks boss.”
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