The 27-year-old told Sir Alex Ferguson two weeks ago that he felt he needed a fresh start, having fallen down the pecking order at United. But the precise nature of that conversation, and Rooney’s tone, has remained unclear and it is understood that some reassurance from Moyes may be enough to settle him.
Moyes will want some assurances too, however, and it is extending Rooney’s £250,000-a-week contract which may present far more of an obstacle, with United now calling the shots in a way that Rooney was when he secured that deal in October 2010. Though the outgoing Everton manager made it clear that the subject of Manchester United was off-limits during his penultimate pre-match Finch Farm press conference, the repair to their relationship, which Rooney has contributed to significantly in the past four years, will help them renew a working relationship which ended when Rooney left Goodison Park for Old Trafford in 2004.
The only moment of hesitation Moyes displayed in an accomplished 30-minute press conference, ostensibly staged to discuss his final home game as Everton manager against West Ham United, came when a question about Sir Alex Ferguson’s accomplishments was delivered. It threatened to break the agreement that this would be an event about Everton. Moyes took it and answered assuredly, though it is for his discussion of Everton that yesterday will be remembered.
Two significant words were absent from his delivery – Manchester United – a club that Moyes insisted he had not been plotting a move to behind Everton’s back. “It was a whirlwind and it would be completely wrong to say it was done a month ago,” he declared. He was criticised on social media for refusing to take questions on the club he is to join but that proved to be a decision of great intelligence, affording Everton and their supporters the courtesy of a discussion devoted to them.
Moyes was calm and articulate but the subliminal emotion was clearly there as he sat, fiddling with the top of his mineral water bottle, discussing the club which had given him a break when some doubted his experience for the task, and his Goodison predecessor Walter Smith, who had urged them to do so. The Everton chairman, Bill Kenwright, has asked Moyes to advise in the search for his own successor and he has agreed.
The side he leaves is the one he fatefully called “the People’s Club” on his first day in the job – the legend that will remain stamped on Goodison Park when he has gone. “If ever there was a true statement, it was that one,” Moyes said. “People thought I must have sat up all night thinking of it. But it was nothing like that. It was from the heart. The 11 years have not disappointed. Everton will always be very close to me.”
He said he had been making plans for the 2013-14 Everton campaign when the call from United came – and in the course of yesterday’s discussion there were few touches more impressive than his reluctance to indulge in the saccharine suggestions that he had considered, for the briefest moment, turning down the Premier League champions. “Everton Football Club is such an important thing for me,” Moyes said. “But as for turning the job down? If I am being honest, I have to say ‘no’.”
It was on Wednesday that he travelled to London to see Kenwright and tell him in person that their professional association was at an end. “There were no tears,” Moyes said. “It was a man-to-man conversation.
“I hope he will always be a friend of mine, so I didn’t feel I was saying goodbye to him. It was tough because he has been such a guide to me. He gave me the job and I have great respect for him. If there was surprise for him it was because all the preparations were ready. My contract was running out and if you’d have pushed me I’d have said my mind was swaying on staying at Everton. I had everything in place for next season, all the pre-season preparations. The chairman knew the route I wanted to keep moving us forward.”
The only moment of mild indignation came when his absence of silverware at Everton, something that the sceptical United fans might worry about, was mentioned. The club had only collected one cup in the decade prior to his arrival, Moyes replied, firmly.
The 11 years at Everton have changed him, he said. “I might have got mellower, although you could argue that is a bad thing. When you are young, you are intense. I have not lost the intensity but maybe I use it in the right way. The experience and comfort which I have felt in my job, because I had good players and a stable board, has helped me mature and develop. But I hope I have not lost the inner devilment which I think I still have within me.”
This delivery should be enough to earn a good reception tomorrow afternoon from the supporters to whom he has come to mean so much. “I hope they react the way they did when I first stepped in the door,” Moyes said. “If they don’t, I can understand that because I’m a fan myself. I will just stand in the same position I always do.”
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