Manchester United manager David Moyes has admitted that he once tried to talk Wayne Rooney into playing for Scotland.
Former Scotland manager Berti Vogts, now in charge of Azerbaijan, revealed last week he travelled to Liverpool to speak a 16-year-old Rooney in an effort to persuade the then Everton striker his international future lay north of the border.
At the time, both Moyes and Vogts were of the mistaken belief one of Rooney’s grandparents hailed from Scotland. That has proved to be false.
An attempt was made, though, even if Moyes always knew what the answer would be. “I remember it,” he said yesterday. “In my mind there was a definite possibility. I was desperate to get him to play for Scotland. Unfortunately Berti and myself couldn’t convince him and as it turned out, his roots and where he came from made him very much English. I don’t think it was ever in doubt he would play for England.”
Rooney has now done so on 86 occasions, and is now just 11 goals short of equalling Sir Bobby Charlton’s scoring record of 49. Rooney, who will be 28 later this month, will surely eclipse Charlton’s Manchester United record of 249 if he signs an extension to his current contract, which is due to expire in 2015.
He has been in supreme form this season, netting seven times in his past eight games for club and country despite suffering a succession of injuries, including a badly gashed head. Speaking ahead of England’s victory over Montenegro last week, Rooney claimed much of the credit went to Moyes for having enough faith in him to restore him to a striking role Sir Alex Ferguson had been increasingly reluctant to do.
“There was no doubt,” said Moyes. “I said near enough from day one Wayne would play up front or behind the front man at times. That is where I see Wayne Rooney playing. I didn’t see him doing any other job.
“Can he do other jobs? Of course he can. Will he have to? Of course he will. But what is he? He is a centre-forward. He is a number 10. He can play either of those two roles equally as well.” Moyes could do with another significant Rooney contribution today as United look to claim back-to-back wins for the first time under the Scot when they entertain Southampton.
Meanwhile, Scotland coach Stuart McCall admits the change in the national team’s recent performances has been “remarkable”.
Scotland finished their World Cup qualifying campaign with three wins in four games and a second victory over play-off qualifiers Croatia raised them to fourth place in the group. McCall came in as part of Gordon Strachan’s backroom team with Scotland on two points following their first four games, form which saw Craig Levein sacked as manager.
Scotland then lost 2-1 at home to Wales and lost in Serbia before a shock victory in Zagreb in June sparked an upturn in fortunes.
The Motherwell manager said: “It’s been a remarkable turnaround because the first 30 minutes against Wales, in the first competitive game, was probably the worst game I have seen or been in charge of or been part of a team. We couldn’t even pass it from A to B and we were really poor. The good thing about that is, it could only get better and thankfully it has done.
“There have been so many positives. Ikechi Anya has caught the eye; Russell Martin, who was on the fringes as a full-back, is now playing regularly at centre-back; young Grant Hanley, who is still a bit raw, has held down a place and kept a clean sheet against Croatia; a fully-fit Scott Brown coming back has had a big impact. But you can look through the squad and there have been a lot of positives.
“In a way for Gordon it’s probably good we haven’t got a competitive game in the next few weeks because if the likes of (Shaun) Maloney, (Steven) Fletcher, (Steven) Whittaker and James Forrest had all been available, it would be a tough team to pick because there have been some terrific performances.”