Rooney’s form has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround in form since last summer, when the 28-year-old was on the verge of leaving the club, but Moyes’ decision to keep the former Everton striker even at a time when many fans would have been happy to see the back of him has been vindicated with Rooney displaying the sort of performances that he was used to deliver until 18 months ago.
Initially a doubt for Saturday’s game, Rooney produced a splendid performance, causing no end of troubles for West Ham’s defence and earning his manager’s praise.
“Wayne played great,” said the United manager after Saturday’s 3-1 win over West Ham. “He dropped in and he took the ball. He passed the ball from a little bit deeper at times but also made a contribution in the goals. It was very good.”
Moyes described Rooney as a more mature player, one to whom leadership comes natural these days.
“Do you know what I see more than anything in Wayne? I see leadership. I see somebody who wants to take responsibility for the team. I see somebody who cares for how he plays and how the team plays. More than anything, that is what I see from Wayne.
“Maybe if he is not quite at the top of his form I will need him to drop in at times and he has no problem doing any of the jobs. He is getting to an age now where he realises he is not a boy any more. He is one of the senior men in the team. He is actually on the verge of being one of the great legends at this club,” explained Moyes.
“Because of that I think he is saying, ‘I have got to take responsibility for results and for performances and make sure the players are doing it on the pitch.’ The players are responding.”
“In the dressing room now Wayne is one of those who is beginning to call the shots.”
The United manager also praised the performances of Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones, who have benefited from the absences of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand to establish themselves as regulars in the starting XI.
“Chris and Jones and Jonny, they have stepped up,” said Moyes.
“I have given them opportunities and they need to keep showing me what they can do. It is not a change yet [from seniors to the young players] because I have used Vida and Rio at times.
“But I just think we have good young centre-halves and young centre-halves tend to get better with age. We need to try and get them the games to develop them, because when it is the old ones’ time to move on then we need to have players who are ready and committed to take their place.
“Jonny Evans has played well. I said to him I don’t think he started the season well. But he has grown into it and is playing very well. We will keep changing them around because we have five good centre-halves. We will use them at different times. That is what has been done here before and I will continue to do it.”
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