Sir Bobby Charlton still hopes Wayne Rooney eclipses his Manchester United goalscoring record despite the striker again hankering after a move away from Old Trafford.
Rooney requires 52 to catch Charlton’s 249 United goals and is just three off becoming only the fourth player in their history to reach the double century – the other two being Denis Law and war-time marksman Jack Rowley.
Yet the prospect of Rooney even achieving the latter feat looks slim given his present stand-off with the Red Devils. United insist the 27-year-old is not for sale, a stance set to be tested again by Chelsea before the transfer window closes on 2 September.
But the Old Trafford hero hopes the present impasse is resolved before then. “Wayne Rooney is a Manchester United player and I think that he will continue to be a Manchester United player,” said Charlton, speaking during a visit to the Laureus-supported Operation Breakthrough project in Hong Kong.
“We are not silly enough to make any rash decisions. I don’t like losing really good players and he is a really, really good player,” said Charlton. “I was hoping one day that he might score as many goals as I had and that would have been really nice if it was at our club. I’m still thinking that way.”
Still sidelined by a hamstring injury that saw him sent home from the five-match pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia that ends in Hong Kong today, Rooney will surely not be sold until United have strengthened their own squad.
That, however, is proving troublesome with as yet, no new additions, despite the return to Europe on 18 July of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward on “urgent transfer business”.
Barcelona have continued to insist that Moyes’ major target, Cesc Fabregas, is staying where he is, leaving United to ponder the wisdom of a third bid.
“I never at any time said I knew we would get him,” said Moyes yesterday. “I just said we had made offers. They have been rejected. We will take stock of the situation and decide where we go from there.”
It would not seem that a switch of target is imminent, even if it is an option, having been linked so often with Marouane Fellaini, a player Moyes knows well from his time at Everton.
Certainly the United camp anticipate additions before the transfer window closes on 2 September. “That is the transfer deadline,” said Moyes. “I am confident we will have players in before then.”
The present situation has been portrayed by some as being a mini-crisis, with United set to fall apart if they don’t buy anyone. However, as Moyes stated, only Paul Scholes’ retirement has diminished the squad that last season won a record 20th title by an impressive 11-point margin.
“We have a great squad,” said Moyes. “There are a few more I have not even met yet and, even without any additions, Manchester United will be tough opponents for any team this year.”
Fans are in for a surprise today, with skipper Nemanja Vidic set to feature in what was arranged as a reserve team friendly at Crewe. The tough-tackling Serbian will bolster United’s defensive options significantly ahead of what is shaping up to be an intriguing Premier League campaign.
“Manchester United are challenged by everybody in every game they play as far as I know and we will be this year by several teams in the Premier League,” said Moyes. “It looks like a strong league, with new managers and new players at certain clubs as well.
“Hopefully we are in for an exciting year and one people will enjoy watching.”
United have shrugged off any concerns about the state of the pitch they will encounter at Hong Kong Stadium today. The surface has been woeful since last week’s deluge just before Tottenham met Sunderland in the Barclays Asia Trophy last Wednesday.
Further heavy rain in Hong Kong at the weekend did more damage to the surface, although – thanks to the efforts of Spurs groundsman Darren Baldwin – the biennial pre-season competition was completed as scheduled.
Baldwin has departed now, though, meaning United cannot be entirely sure how the pitch will be treated ahead of the final game of their five-match pre-season tour against Kitchee FC this evening.
Moyes, who was present to watch Saturday night’s games, cancelled a planned open training session with the aim of protecting the pitch. He is hopeful a rare sunny day will have had a positive effect, although by last night the rain had returned.
Nevertheless, United intend to fulfil their obligation without complaint. “Two teams have to play on it,” Moyes said. “It is the same for everybody.
“We are used to playing on good surfaces and pitches but there was nothing the people in Hong Kong could do to make the weather any better.
“It was terrible for three or four days. It is drying out now, which might make it worse if it gets bobbly.”