Moyes: Rooney is needed as 'cover' – Is it an ultimatum?

David Moyes has made perhaps the first mistake of his Manchester United career in describing Wayne Rooney as ‘cover’ for Robin van Persie.

The 27-year-old English striker’s future has been the subject of intense speculation since Sir Alex Ferguson revealed Rooney has handed in a transfer request last season, prior to the boss’ retirement after his 26-year reign at Old Trafford.

Since the arrival of Golden Boot winner Van Persie last summer, Rooney’s status with the Red Devils seemed to take a tumble – he made just 26 Premier League appearances for United last term and scored just 12 goals.

It appeared that Rooney was behind the Dutch ace in the pecking order – he spent more time on the bench last term than he has ever before in his almost decade-long spell with the Premier League champions.

Formerly a Golden Boot winner himself, Rooney had been, prior to Van Persie’s arrival United’s most valued and important first team player – even when Cristiano Ronaldo was around, he was still regarded as a key asset to the club, the team and the manager.

Now, the new boss may have had something of a Freudian slip as he referred to Rooney effectively as ‘cover’ in case Van Persie gets injured which, whilst we all knew that was likely to going to be the case, stating it so publicly is unlikely to encourage Rooney to stay.

"Overall, my thought on Wayne is, if for any reasons we had an injury to Robin van Persie, we'll need him," said Moyes.

"Wayne can play up on his own, he can play dropped in. It's going to be a time to see how I work with Wayne. "Manchester United isn't about Wayne Rooney. Manchester United is about the team - the club.“

"I won't allow Wayne Rooney to become more important than the football club and the football team, because that's the heart of it," added the Scot.

Well, he certainly didn’t mince his words – the manager takes a huge risk making statements like that about a player with Rooney’s ego and attitude especially. I have a feeling it’s a make or break situation now. Moyes may have just put the nail in the coffin on Rooney Manchester United career or he could have very astutely set his stalls out to call his former Everton protégé’s bluff.

Rooney can take this public ‘humiliation’ in one of two ways – a) he can take it as an insult and pack his bags to find a club where he’s the star of the show again or b) he could realize who’s boss on this one, keep his mouth shut, get his head down, work hard and fight for his place.

In reality, whilst it may appear to have been an off-hand remark from the manager, in the grand scheme of things (the club, the new season and so on) it’s probably better that he made the statement because it forces Rooney to like it or lump it – if he stays, he can’t start complaining about being benched when he was told he’d be ‘cover’ from the offset and if he’s not prepared to play second-fiddle to Van Persie, it’s probably best he leaves anyway. Maybe this is exactly the kind of ultimatum Rooney needs.

image: © nasmac

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