David Moyes insists Wayne Rooney will not be sold by Manchester United but despite being pressed repeatedly, the club's new manager could not "categorically" confirm that the striker is happy to remain at Old Trafford.
In his first press conference since succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson, Moyes tried to end speculation about the unsettled striker who has been linked with Arsenal, Chelsea and Paris St-Germain. "I have had opportunities to speak [to him], I've had a chance to speak to Wayne. The fact of the matter is that Wayne's not for sale," he said.
"He's a Manchester United player, he will remain a Manchester United player. I've been fortunate, I've known Wayne since he was 16 [when Moyes managed him at Everton]. It is a little bit of déja vu, it's a similar sort of feeling. I've had several meetings with Wayne, he's training brilliantly well, he's come back in good shape and I really look forward to working with him."
Moyes did not reply directly when asked if Rooney had told him he would like to stay. "Well, what we're doing at the moment is we're looking to see how we can get Wayne Rooney getting those goals which is going to challenge the likes of Bobby Charlton and Denis Law's number," he said. "So as far as I'm concerned the way he's working I'm more than happy to work with him and make sure we get success."
Again, when it was put to the Scot if Rooney wants to remain at United, Moyes refused to answer. "We are working, as I say, and we're trying everything we can to make sure to get Wayne to the level where we think – I mean, this country's got a World Cup hopefully next year to play in, so [it is] for everybody's benefit we try and get him in a condition, a state where everybody thinks he's getting much more like the Wayne Rooney we know. And I'm looking forward to making that happen," he said.
Finally, asked if Rooney had categorically told Moyes he does not want to leave, the manager said: "I can tell you categorically that Wayne Rooney is training fantastically well in the last two days. That's all I can categorically tell you."
Towards the end of last season Rooney met Ferguson to state that if he was not given assurances about his role in the team, he may choose to leave. But Moyes claimed that with Ferguson gone he wanted a fresh start with the forward. "We have spoken several times and as far as I've seen it, whatever happened before is gone," he said.
"We're working together now. And I see a little glint in his eye. He looks happy and he looks as if he's saying: 'I'm going to knuckle down, I'm going to get myself right.' And I can only say I've been impressed with how he's done. He's a terrific player and I'm really looking forward to [working with him]. And as the club have reiterated, he won't be for sale.
"There was a private meeting between two people, I wasn't privy to that so whatever happened in that meeting was said. I'm now looking at my period at Man U and I'll take it on from there."
Ferguson claimed that in their meeting Rooney made a formal transfer request. While the club now accept this did not occur, Moyes was pressed on whether Rooney wants United to make an official statement. "No, as I said – I don't know what those two gentlemen said together ," the 50-year-old said. "They both have spoken and that conversation was private between them. As far as I'm concerned, I'm really looking forward to having a go with Wayne and getting to the levels I know he's capable of and everybody at Man U knows he's capable of."
According to Moyes, Ferguson informed him that in Rooney he was inheriting a fine footballer. "He said to me you have got a very, very good player there, that is what he said. A good player who over recent seasons has been a big player, made a big impact in games, scored a lot of goals. All the things he spoke about the squad were very positive."
Moyes challenged Rooney, who has 197 United goals, to overtake Charlton's record mark of 249. "It [is] interesting to think that actually Wayne is only 40 goals behind Bobby Charlton or 50, and I think 40 behind Denis Law [he has 237]. I think if I was Wayne, you would look at the legends who have played at this club. You see their pictures – George Best, Bobby Charlton, Roy Keane, I could go on. And I thought to myself, 'Wayne isn't far away from that.' It isn't too difficult to get the goals and if he could do that, he would be seen in the same light as many of those people."
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