LONDON: David Moyes, having seen Manchester United return to winning league ways by 3-0 at Aston Villa, also appears to be winning his most important challenge off it.
United are confident Wayne Rooney is ready to forget about a possible Chelsea move and begin discussing the offer of a four-year contract extension worth £50m. Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and Rooney’s agent, Paul Stretford, are expected to undertake formal meetings very soon.
This indicates that Moyes is winning his battle of trust since the breakdown in relations between United and Rooney after Sir Alex Ferguson suggested that Rooney had asked to leave the club – something the 28-year-old striker has always denied.
A new deal with Rooney would support Moyes in his pursuit of new players to fill the gaps likely to be left by the departure of a string of players. These could include wingers Nani and Antonio Valencia, striker Javier Hernandez, England’s Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young plus Anderson, Alex Buttner, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra.
Rooney returned after suspension to help engineer the despatch of Villa. Two goals fell in the opening 18 minutes to Danny Welbeck, making a rare start up front in place of injured Robin Van Persie. He snatched his first after Adnan Januzaj headed against a post and then converted a cross from Valencia. Rooney set up Cleverley for No3 in the 52nd minute.
Villa were 3-0 down and well beaten when substitute Darren Fletcher made his first appearance after a year out with illness.
Moyes was full of praise for Rooney, saying: “He has that ability in many different attacking roles. He’s been excellent all season and he played great again today.”
Tellingly this was only United’s second clean sheet in their last 12 league games.
Down in London Luis Suarez gave watching England manager Roy Hodgson a worrying afternoon with a masterful match-winning performance as Liverpool won 5:0 at Tottenham.
The Uruguayan, who faces England in Brazil next June, scored the first and fourth goal, helped set up the second for Jordan Henderson, created the third for Jon Flanagan and was foiled twice more by fine saves from keeper Hugo Lloris.
Suarez’s goals established him as the Premier League’s 17-goal top scorer.
It was also for a second half kick at Suarez that Brazil midfielder Paulinho was sent off. Lewis Holtby worked hard, as first-half substitute for injured Sandro, but in vain, and was yellow-carded for a foul on Joe Allen.
Also in the crowd to see Spurs’ worst home defeat in 16 years – and without even one shot on target – was Russia manager Fabio Capello.