• Premier League

Moyes: I told Rooney he'd gone soft

ESPN staff
February 22, 2014
Moyes hopeful after Rooney signing

David Moyes has revealed he told Wayne Rooney he had "gone a bit soft" in a bid to motivate the disillusioned striker into resurrecting his Manchester United career.

Rooney has committed his future to United after signing a new £85 million, five-and-a-half year deal. He had expressed a desire to leave Old Trafford in the summer after falling out with Moyes' predecessor, Sir Alex Ferguson, and was the subject of two failed bids from Chelsea.

But in two meetings with Rooney before taking over at United on July 1, Moyes managed to persuade Rooney to stay after opting to be brutally honest with him about what he saw as a perceived drop in standards on the pitch.

"I remember when he came to see me," recalled Moyes. "He came up to my house. I said to him: 'If you ask me what's missing - I think you've gone a bit soft.' I thought he hadn't been the hard-working, aggressive player he was.

"But now in games people are saying: 'Look at the effort he's putting in.' It's his work-rate, not just for himself but for the team. He's become an all-round team player who is also a technically gifted footballer.

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"I said to Wayne that I wanted him to stay. Before I'd actually come in here, I'd met Wayne privately a couple of times, to talk about his situation, to try to understand. So when I got in [on July 1] I knew where Wayne was.

"The most important thing for Wayne was to show everyone what he really was and I think deep down he knows he didn't play as well as he could have done at times. I needed to try to get him back to that level. But in the end I just said to him: 'Wayne, go and get on with it.' His training was first-class, he came back in great shape, you could really see the hunger back in his eyes again."

Moyes handed Rooney his Premier League debut as a 16-year-old at Everton, although the pair fell out over comments made by the striker when he left for United in 2004. Their relationship was further strained by a 2008 libel case won by Moyes, who later received an apology from Rooney.

However Moyes revealed Rooney agreed with him that he needed to up his game.

"I said: 'I've watched you, I've not been your manager, I just think you had better get back to the old aggressive Wayne Rooney,'" Moyes said. "And I think he thought: 'Yes, maybe that.' But what he had to get to was a level of fitness where he was able to produce again. He was brilliant in the way he trained and wasn't a minute's problem."

Rooney was also motivated to stay at United by the chance to break Sir Bobby Charlton's club record 247 goals in 754 games. Rooney has 208 goals in 430 appearances.

"I think that was behind it," Moyes said. "To be a legend at Manchester United it is something where you are associated with this club for the rest of your life. The one thing I've noticed since I've been here is no one wants to leave Manchester United very quickly.

"For Wayne, he's recognised [how] people like Bobby Charlton, George Best - the way those big stars are seen here. Wayne's next thing is that we have to keep challenging him to get those goals, make those big targets.

"All we've done is say to Wayne you need to get back to where we think you were. There is more to come as an all-round team player, leader, person."

Moyes also promised United fans that Rooney will not be the last big-name signing at the club this year.

The announcement of Rooney's new deal comes a month after Moyes smashed the club's transfer record to sign Juan Mata from Chelsea for £37.1 million. After experiencing a summer of disappointment in the transfer window last year, Moyes has vowed to make even more key signings this summer.

"I want to bring more Wayne Rooneys to Manchester United," Moyes told MUTV. "We're having to build again and start again.

"Part of the rebuilding is making sure that you keep the players you really want to keep. We are looking to bring the best players in the world to the club. Wayne Rooney is one of the best in the world.

"I will be looking to make more signings in the summer and hopefully add to the quality we already have got. It tells the fans it'll get better - and it will. I've had great support from the owners and the board - and it won't be the last, that's for sure.

"I am thrilled that we have got Wayne Rooney to stay. He has been fantastic. Everyone would want him in their team.

"There were clubs who did want him. There were clubs who would have wanted him [had he not signed a new deal] but there was never going to be a chance he was going to leave Manchester United, certainly not on my watch."

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