London – Wayne Rooney’s post-match interview with ITV’s Gabriel Clarke on Tuesday may prove as memorable as another impressive display on his road to redemption at Manchester United. YouTube will have been busy on Wednesday morning.
Twenty minutes after fixing Clarke with the kind of stare he usually reserves for referees, though, Rooney cut a rather different figure as he talked to newspaper reporters in a tunnel near the players’ entrance.
Some subjects remained off-limits. “Ask me about the summer and I will walk off,” said Rooney, half-smiling.
But what followed was as near to a confirmation that the 27-year-old is now concentrating on Old Trafford as we will perhaps ever get. One suspects there will be further twists in the Rooney story between now and next summer, particularly when United attempt to open talks about a new contract in the weeks to come.
Nevertheless, United supporters buoyed by three Rooney goals in two games and by what appears to be a blossoming partnership with Robin van Persie will not be discouraged to hear him talk about a future with manager David Moyes and even a tilt at Sir Bobby Charlton’s goals record.
Asked about his reunion with Moyes after they worked together at Everton, he said: “He’s a great manager and thoroughly deserves this job, because of what he did at Everton.
“It’s good to work under him and hopefully we’ll be successful together.
“I feel great. The training is a bit different under the new manager. I remember it from Everton, it’s more intense. But that’s helping me. I feel good and am glad to be out playing.
“I’ve put my head down and worked hard and tried to do everything right. I’ve tried to show the right attitude.
“That’s paying off for me on the pitch. I feel fit and ready to do well.’
It is unfair to lampoon ITV’s Clarke – questions with subtle nuances do not suit live TV and at least he braved asking a question or two about the summer’s events.
Rooney has barely spoken to the media since his clumsy attempts to move to Chelsea, and those awaiting a mea culpa may wait a while.
Nevertheless, Rooney, more intelligent than some give him credit for, seemed happy late on Tuesday night to hint at a future at Old Trafford, even if guarantees remain absent.
Having scored 200 United goals, Rooney, 49 short of Charlton’s record, would have to stay on for two more years at least to break it. Moyes used this as a selling point in talks with Rooney in the summer and the United striker said: “Obviously those conversations are private but I knew it (about the record) anyway. It’s always a challenge. It’s a massive football club and it’s amazing how long that record has stood for. So it’s great to get to 200.”
He added: “It’s been stop-start with the injuries but I have just kept my head down and worked hard and now I’ve played and got some goals.”
Having played second fiddle somewhat to Van Persie last season, Rooney has reminded people why he is so vital to United and England.
Moyes was upset in the summer that comments to newspapers about Rooney’s role were misinterpreted.
The partnership forged by the two players in recent days would suggest there is room for both in the side.
Against Crystal Palace at the weekend and against Leverkusen Rooney seems to have thrived in an advanced role, something he was not always guaranteed by Moyes’ predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson.
“The manager has made it clear he wants one up and one behind,” said Rooney. “Whatever way round that is doesn’t matter to me, as long as one is always filling in behind and helping out the midfield. I have seen things said over the summer but me and Robin are friends off the pitch.
“It’s different to the way I played, for example, with Cristiano Ronaldo. He played out wide most games and I was on the other side out wide, both playing off the front man.” With a Manchester derby looming on Sunday, Rooney appeared more focused after the 4-2 win than when a substitute at Swansea last month.
Having missed last week’s England game in Ukraine with a gash to the head, Rooney was an interested observer at home. He even claims to have gained an insight into the workings of the media. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t that flattering.
“It was a great point for us,” he said. “It’s not nice being back here when the team is away for such an important game. I got a chance to see what the Press were saying before the game. They were all saying a point would be good no matter what the performance was like. But then we got a point and were slaughtered!
“The most important thing was to come back with something and now it’s in our own hands.”
*Manchester United have written to fans to defend David Moyes after criticism over the club’s limited transfer activity in the summer window. The letter says the two key objectives – keeping Rooney and signing Marouane Fellaini – were both achieved. – Daily Mail