Is David Moyes playing with fire at Manchester United?

David Moyes

You could have forgiven the new Manchester United manager for taking a few quiet weeks to get settled at the Premier League club. But in reality the tact the Scotsman has taken has been anything but unassuming. After his recent comments added petrol to the Wayne Rooney transfer saga, will Moyes regret taking such a confrontational style?

While talking to the assembled media on United’s pre-season tour to Asia he had the following to say:

“Overall my thought on Wayne is he’ll be key. If for any reason we had an injury to Robin. Robin, we are going to need him.”

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A player of Rooney’s class expects to be central to managerial plans at any club he finds himself at. It would therefore appear unwise for a new manager to arrive and quickly assert that Rooney’s place is not going to be top of the pile.  With the potential for a post-Fergie political vacuum it would have been wise to ensure the big players at the club are on side, and few come with greater stature than Rooney.

It was an odd thing to say for someone with as much managerial experience as Moyes. Media handling has of late become a central part of a manager’s day-to-day workload and the Scotsman is therefore unlikely to have made the comment by sheer accident. Looking at his time at Everton the Scot was hardly gaffe-prone and therefore these comments come by surprise. So what were Moyes’ motives here? The only two possibilities are that he is trying to assert his authority early on or that he simply wants rid of Wayne Rooney.

The mantra that no man is bigger than the club is often pontificated by managers up and down the land. While this optimistic view of footballers as an all for one and one for all sort of bunch sounds nice, in the modern game it very rarely holds true. There will always be egos within any changing room that feel they have a greater role to play than others; some players are just indispensable to a club. Moyes clearly doesn’t view Rooney in this way, remarking:

“I’ve also got to make sure it’s not just him and we don’t concentrate on him. Manchester United isn’t about Wayne Rooney.”

So one can presume that Moyes views Rooney as a dispensable player. A player that is still important but not key to their hopes unlike someone of van Persie’s class. He did make it clear that Rooney still carried importance in later remarks however:

“I think he’s got a major role to play because we need to try and get as many goals as we possibly can. I think Wayne can play up-top he can play dropped in.”

If Moyes really wants rid of Rooney he is doing an exceptional job. Rather than face a protracted transfer saga, he may have forced the player into handing in a request to push through the move. United fans will therefore be hoping that the Scotsman has a ready replacement in line to fill the berth. Reports linking Bale to United for around £60million in the Mirror may therefore not be far off the mark.

So will David Moyes regret the comments he recently made? My view is that United as a whole are not quite as star-studded as they once were. Possessing a collection of quality players without too many out and out world-class individuals. Van Persie aside, Rooney if he could rekindle any of his form still represents someone with the potential to play at a world-class level. If you look towards the transfer market there really are not many players that can easily be brought in to even match the Englishman’s talents let alone surpass them.

Moreover, the comments made by Moyes have pushed the saga towards the point of no return. Rooney’s position at the club is becoming increasingly untenable. This was exacerbated further by the comments he made to Sky Sports in response to Moyes. He described his emotions to the broadcaster as being: “angry and confused.”

Some more critical United fans may just see this as a continuation of churlish behaviours left over from the Ferguson era. Rooney appears to require the supervision and treatment of a pre-school toddler at times and this begs the question – is he worth the hassle?

Pressed by many to forge his own dynasty in Manchester from the shadows of Ferguson, is Moyes just simply trying to clear the debris of the past? The Rooney issue is a well-documented spillover from that era, following a series of fall-outs between club and player. Moyes always admitted he would seek advice from his predecessor. Perhaps he is taking the same stubborn approach that was laid before him when tackling the saga.

While I agree Moyes needs to carve out his own era, perhaps a stance on Rooney isn’t the right place to begin. If the player moved to a Premier League rival and ended up being a success, Moyes would be dealt a fair bit of blame for the decision. This would especially be the case if no ready-made replacement was found. Therefore a swap deal would appear the best bet here. Swapping say Mata for Rooney would enable a fresh start for United while also replacing the hole left by Rooney with someone of world-class pedigree.

Has Moyes made a decision he will come to regret?

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