By Sonia Oxley
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – New Manchester United manager David Moyes was adamant on Friday that Wayne Rooney was not for sale but stopped short of saying the England striker no longer wanted to leave the club.
Rooney’s future dominated the Scot’s first news conference since he took over the Premier League champions from the retired Alex Ferguson, who had said in May that the unsettled forward had asked for a transfer.
“I’ve had a chance to speak to Wayne… the fact of the matter is Wayne is not for sale,” Moyes said at Old Trafford.
“He is a Manchester United player and will remain a Manchester United player. I’ve known Wayne since he was 16 … he’s training very well, he’s come back in good shape and I really look forward to working with him.”
Moyes was repeatedly asked about Rooney, including direct questions such as: “Has he told you he would like to stay at Manchester United?” but failed to give ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.
“What we are doing at the moment is we are looking to see how we can get Wayne Rooney getting those goals which are going to challenge the likes of Bobby Charlton and Denis Law’s (total) number,” said the former Everton manager.
“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.
Rooney has scored 197 goals in 402 United appearances, winning five Premier League titles, the Champions League in 2008 and two League Cups.
Charlton holds the club’s all-time record of 249 goals with Law second on 237.
Asked if Rooney had categorically told him that he did not want to leave, Moyes replied: “I can tell you categorically Wayne Rooney is training fantastically well in the last two days, that’s all I can categorically tell you.”
Moyes’s answers will have done little to halt the rumours and questions over the future of Rooney, who suffered a dip in form after the arrival of Robin van Persie from Arsenal as United’s top striker last season.
Often played wide or in midfield, Rooney was left out of the United team for their biggest match of the season – the Champions League last-16 second-leg defeat by Real Madrid.
Rooney is no stranger to Moyes, with the striker having begun his career at Everton under the Scot.
The two then fell out over an account in one of the player’s autobiographies about how he came to join United.
Moyes was determined not to look to the past, saying the conversation Rooney had with Ferguson over his desire to leave the 20-times English champions was a private one and that since he was now in charge it was a new era.
“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, he looks as if he’s saying: ‘I’m going to knuckle down’.
“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 Manchester United and I’ll take it on from there.”
He added it was not just United who wanted the England international back to his best.
“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 all know,” he said.
“And I’m looking forward to making that happen.”
Captain Nemanja Vidic, sitting next to his new manager, said Rooney had not spoken to him about his future.
“Wayne trained really well the last few days,” he said. “He’s in really good shape, I think he’s in the best shape for the last five years and I’m looking forward to seeing him playing for the club and doing his best.”
(Editing by Tony Jimenez and Ken Ferris)