David Moyes has played down talk of offering Wayne Rooney a new contract, saying his priority is for the in-form striker to keep up his fine goalscoring form in Sunday’s Manchester derby.
The 27-year-old has scored three goals in his last two games and brought up a double century for Manchester United in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen.
But his current deal expires in 2015 and United are likely to try and tie Rooney down for the long term, rather than risk losing him on a free transfer or being forced to sell him for less than his market value.
And having fought a campaign to keep Rooney in the summer, when Chelsea made two offers for him, Moyes is likely to be keen to keep the forward – but he is concentrating on the meeting with Manchester City.
He said: “I think we just do it step-by-step. Just to see him score another two goals at the weekend will be the next step, just to keep his form going. I think he’s played well and we want him to maintain to it. If anything I am asking him to step up again and keep getting better.”
Moyes believes Rooney believes the credit for his fine form for his efforts to get himself fit after he suffered shoulder and hamstring injuries in pre-season and then missed the defeat to Liverpool with a gashed forehead.
He added: “We kept him working really hard. He kept himself working really hard I should say. He was in really good shape and I was impressed with the condition he was in and the way he worked in pre-season.
“I think he is getting the fruits of that. He has worked hard and shown everyone what he can do.”
Moyes also challenged Antonio Valencia to become more prolific and has set the winger an eight-goal target.
The Ecuador international scored his first goal of the season against Leverkusen to equal his tally for the whole of the last campaign. He has struck just 11 times in 105 Premier League games in four years since making the move from Wigan, where he only scored seven goals in 85 matches.
Moyes said: “I said to him: ‘You should be able to getting yourself seven or eight goals a season regularly.’ He looked at me and sort of squinted a little. Hopefully he knows what I mean.
“I don’t know how many he scored last season but I think it was only one or two. He’s got off to a good start and hopefully getting close to the target for this season.”
Valencia was United’s player of the year for the 2011-12 campaign but struggled last year after he was granted the No. 7 shirt – previously worn by Old Trafford greats George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.
This season he has reverted to his previous number, 25, and Moyes added: “They kept telling me we need to change his number and we got that changed for him. Sometimes psychologically it can make a difference for a player. Overall I have been pleased. He’s scored a great goal. He’s done very well.”