However he meant it, David Moyes' latest comment about his forward can't have gone down too well with the man in question. Can they?
It seemed like only a matter of time. As the new football season approached – and Chelsea continued their charm offensive, fluttering their collective eye-lashes in the direction of Wayne Rooney – more than a few of us suspected the Manchester United striker would soon be swapping red for blue.
That David Moyes stood firm, reinforcing time and again that Rooney would not be sold, somehow did not alleviate the doubt, mostly because that doubt was fanned almost daily by headlines declaring a hypothetical future.
But in the end, Rooney stayed, and how Moyes, the player’s teammates and the club’s fans are grateful for that fact.
In short, the England forward has been phenomenal this season.
While his teammates have played their way into form (with a few still trying) Rooney has done his best to pull them through each new challenge; starting on that balmy night against the club who so desperately wanted to sign him, and continuing through to a victory over Arsenal that signalled United’s return to a title race they were at risk of bowing out of before December.
With rumours of a new contract offer, and a sense that the 28-year-old is playing how and where he desires, Moyes was surely on the verge of securing a vital component as he reached arguably the peak of his career.
And then he opened his mouth…
“Great players score great goals in big games and Robin’s a great player,” Moyes said of van Persie after the Dutchman’s header decided Sunday’s match.
“His sidekick played great as well,” Moyes added.
The “sidekick” to which he was referring was Rooney, a man desperate to be United’s catalyst, and so often exactly that, and yet a man who Moyes continues to belittle – intentionally or otherwise – through sound-bites that generate headlines and hits the world over.
Moyes did go on to say, “I thought the way Wayne and Robin played merited their title as top players,” and yet even tongue-in-cheek the sidekick line opened an old wound.
That wound was the one delivered to Rooney back in pre-season, when Moyes said he would need the England striker if van Persie was ever injured.
That sense of the Dutchman as top dog and the Englishman as his stand-in has since been forgotten, as Rooney continues to provide the spark from which van Persie often benefits.
But if the club are intending to offer Rooney a new contract, perhaps it is time to show him just how much they value him; after all, he is beginning to look if not priceless then certainly irreplaceable.
image: © nasmac