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May 8, 2013

Top priority for David Moyes: Rooney

MANCHESTER, England -- One of the most pressing items in David Moyes' in-tray when he takes over as Manchester United manager on July 1 will be what to do with Wayne Rooney.

United insisted on Wednesday the England striker was not for sale, but a person familiar with the situation said Rooney held talks with manager Alex Ferguson in recent weeks and indicated he wanted to leave the club. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm British media reports because he was not authorized to discuss the talks publicly.

Those discussions took place before Ferguson announced he was retiring at the end of the season.

It's the second time Rooney has asked to quit United, having backed down from a transfer request in 2010 after negotiating a new and improved contract with the club.

"Sometimes as a player you make bad choices and bad decisions and I think that's what happened," Rooney said last year.

In 2010, Rooney was widely considered among the world's top strikers. Now, he is no longer the No. 1 choice at United, slipping behind Robin van Persie in the list of strikers at Old Trafford this season and often playing in central midfield.

Now that Moyes has replaced Ferguson, the situation becomes even more delicate for Rooney.

It was Moyes who reluctantly sold Rooney to United in 2004 and then launched successful legal action against the striker over allegations in Rooney's autobiography that the Scot leaked details of a private conversation to the media about the factors behind Rooney's move from Everton.

The pair appear to be back on good terms but it won't stop the speculation intensifying about Rooney's future. And United's fans are unlikely to take too kindly to news of Rooney's desire to leave, having largely forgiven him for publicly questioning the club's ambition back in 2010. Their reaction could be telling during United's next game, at home to Swansea on Sunday.

Approaching the final two years of his contract, Rooney appears to be at a crossroads in his career. He is reportedly being pursued by Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain - two of Europe's top sides - but could see Moyes' arrival as a chance to revive his time at United, which has gone sour under Ferguson in the final few months of this season.

He was dropped for the second leg of the Champions League last-16 match against Real Madrid -- arguably United's biggest game of the season -- and has been used sparingly in his favored position of striker since then. He was an unused substitute against Chelsea on Sunday and is no longer the darling of Old Trafford.

That mantle belongs to Van Persie, the Premier League's top scorer in his first season at United.

At Everton, Moyes regularly plays with only one striker - Nikica Jelavic or Victor Anichebe - so would have to adapt his tactics if Van Persie and Rooney are to play up front together.

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