EPL: Is Moyes lying?

It's going pear-shaped and David Moyes stands to lose the most.

The 50-year-old Scot might have inherited a fine championship-winning squad at Old Trafford, but he also took over a Wayne Rooney soap opera that is threatening to wreck his Manchester United career very early on.

Chelsea's persistent pursuit of the unsettled England striker places tremendous stress on the former Everton manager, who probably hasn't experienced a load like that before in his professional career.

The debate now centres on the 27-year-old's fitness. Whether Moyes was trying to be too clever by suggesting that he was injured and therefore unable to take part in last Sunday's Community Shield clash with Wigan, is an answer only both of them have the answer to.

What's undeniable was that by Monday, Rooney was firing on all cylinders at England's training session, as if there was a point to prove.

Sharp

Those present would attest that there wasn't an iota of a hint that he was troubled by the shoulder injury which Moyes claimed to have stopped Rooney from featuring against Wigan.

Daily Telegraph football correspondent Henry Winter said on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast: "Having watched him close up in training, this is the fittest and leanest I've seen Rooney in pre-season. He looks really good and sharp."

England boss Roy Hodgson inadvertently added even more pressure on Moyes by saying that Roon-ey, who showed up on the training pitch half an hour early for good measure, will play against Scotland in a friendly match tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

So, how did a player deemed unfit to play any part in a game against a Championship side sparkle as he did in a training session with the national team the very next day?

Or is there indeed an deliberate attempt, as already suspected by many, to pull wool over everyone's eyes?

Apart from half a game against Real Betis behind closed doors, Rooney hasn't seen action for the Red Devils in the pre-season.

The doubts are festering, and Moyes' ability to manage the world's biggest club will again be brought under the spotlight.

He found himself having to make it clear that there is no rift between player and manager. That Rooney had trained with United's reserves last week, was at the striker's own request, he said.

Cracks

The composed demeanour that he exuded during his first United press conference, when he asserted that Rooney wasn't for sale, is in danger of melting under the intense media glare.

The cracks may already be forming.

The continual probing took its toll mere minutes after United clinched the season-opening Community Shield, his first silverware since Preston North End won the Division Two title 13 years ago.

When asked by a reporter about the rationale for holding on to an unhappy player, he snapped: "Why are you asking me again? He's not for sale. "There's no more answer to your question."

The inexperience showed, and it didn't look pretty.

If at first the saga was a mere unwelcome distraction, it is now turning into a stubborn gnat that won't get out of his face.

But Rooney is also the chance for him to stamp his authority right away.

Now it is in the process of destroying his credibility before the party even begins.

 

garylim@sph.com.sg

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