Why Manchester United Are Right to Stick to Their Guns over Wayne Rooney
Listening to manager David Moyes in the press conference theatre at Wembley on Sunday, he sounded like a man in control.
After enquiries about the Community Shield and Wigan, the inevitable question about Wayne Rooney came. The answer was simple; "he's not for sale."
It was the same in Australia, in Japan and again in Hong Kong. And without wanting to spoil the surprise, the answer will be the same when Moyes holds his pre-Swansea press conference this week.
It's because, despite working in an age of player power, he holds all the cards.
Should Man United sell Wayne Rooney this summer?
Rooney has two years left on his contract, and if United don't want to sell, they don't have to. The power Moyes holds now will diminish with each passing transfer window until Rooney is allowed to leave for free. But this summer, what Moyes says goes.
His logic, mirrored by that of the Glazer family, might be different if it was a foreign club doing the bidding. But to sell to a Premier League rival, and one who will challenge for the title, is unthinkable.
Like the wild Twitter rumours of celebrity deaths, stories of Rooney's demise have been greatly exaggerated. His 16 goals last season was his joint-lowest total since he moved to Old Trafford from Everton in 2004, but he only made 37 appearances, the fewest of any season during his United career.
He suffered a gashed leg in August and a knee injury in December. When he was fit, he wasn't always at his best. However, he was always available to do the dirty jobs, like playing out of position against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu for the good of the team.
The memory can often play tricks, too. The 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium in December is remembered for Van Persie's last-minute free-kick, but it was Rooney's goals that put United up 2-0 at halftime.
Moyes and the Glazers have made a decision not to buckle to player power. It's a risk that could see them lose a £40m player for free in two years. But it's more of a gamble to sell a world-class striker to Chelsea, where he could quite conceivably score 30 goals and win the Premier League.
United are not in the business of selling their best players, particularly ones at the height of their powers, and especially not to domestic rivals.
Moyes will know that a lot can change in two years and that it's still possible for Rooney and the club to reconcile.
If not, United will ultimately lose the war. But not before they've won a number of battles first.
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