David Moyes has offered fulsome praise to Wayne Rooney as he prepares to address the striker’s desire to leave Manchester United.
Moyes, Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor at Old Trafford, will arrive in the summer with Rooney having outlined his determination to leave the club. Ferguson confirmed on Sunday that the England international had issued a transfer request, citing frustrations over playing time.
Moyes has a difficult relationship with the 27-year-old, whom he brought through the youth ranks at Everton. The Scot won substantial libel damages from Rooney in 2008 after the player’s My Story So Far autobiography had falsely accused the manager of leaking a story to the Liverpool Echo about his exit from Goodison Park.
He joined Manchester United in a £20 million deal in 2004.
However, Moyes - who was pictured meeting with Ferguson and Ryan Giggs on Monday - indicated in a speech to the Cambridge Union Society that he rated Rooney as one of the world’s finest players.
“Wayne Rooney was and is an exceptional talent,” he said, according to the Daily Telegraph. “When we sold him to Manchester United, he was fantastic. When he left Everton, he was already an outstanding player.
“Some of the things he used to do in training, we would stand back and look at each other and say: 'How did he do that?’ You would see the staff exchange glances as if to say: 'Can you believe that?’
“He was brilliant, some of the stuff he did. He was football-mad – every training session he would run out, volleying the ball everywhere. He was just a really good 16-year-old footballer but the thing was, he could have left training and then gone out into the street and played with his pals and thought nothing of it.
“A lot of people use the terminology 'street footballer’ and I really think Wayne was the last of the classic street footballers. You could see him in the street, hitting the ball against the walls with his friends. Part of that culture has gone but, coming from Glasgow, I knew what it was like. I do think Wayne really was the last true street footballer I have worked with.”