David Moyes has praised Wayne Rooney for working hard to restore his reputation as a big-game player, adding that he needed to make the change after letting his standards slip last season. "When I came I thought he had gone a bit soft," Moyes said.
On the eve of his first Manchester derby, the United manager told MUTV: "I didn't think there was ever a line to draw under between me and Wayne but now he realises the situation. This is a big year for him with the World Cup and he would say, by his standards, 'last season wasn't my best season'. The great thing from our point of view is that he has set out his own stall to improve on that, and we are all pleased with the results."
Rooney's performance against Bayer Leverkusen earned Sir Alex Ferguson's seal of approval in midweek, and Moyes has never had any hesitation in selecting him for the biggest occasions despite his summer of uncertainty.
"Wayne's attitude is that he is a big-game player," he said. "People come to see players like him make the difference. The top players do influence games. Having players like Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie at the club gives us a chance when games are tight. I said during the summer how much I was looking forward to seeing the two of them play together. That hasn't changed, in fact as a partnership I think it can get even better."
The United manager does not have a problem with Ferguson speaking publicly about team matters, feeling his input is a help rather than interference. "I welcome it, he's perfectly entitled," Moyes said. "I speak to him once a week anyway. I pop in to see him after the game and say hello. He's a director now and I'm going to use his advice. Why would I not do that? I'd be a fool not to. I'm happy for him to be here.
"There's no interference whatsoever because he knows what it is to be a manager. He knows you have to get on with the job yourself. When Sir Alex talked about how Wayne played in the game I think he said exactly what his eyes told him. I don't think it was an olive branch. I think he just saw a Wayne Rooney full of desire, determination, turning and beating people, committed, who scored a couple of good goals. I don't think it was anything to do with anything else. He spoke as a football man, just saying what he'd seen."
Moyes also indicated that United are ready to open talks over a new contract for Nemanja Vidic. The Serbian defender's contract expires at the end of this season and while Moyes admitted he had not yet spoken to United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward about extending Vidic's stay at Old Trafford, as long as the 31-year-old proves his fitness he will be offered a new deal.
"It is something I have not discussed with the chief executive yet but Vida's form at the moment would suggest he is well worthy of that," said Moyes. "Probably his injuries have been the reason why you might have to look at it, so the big thing is to see how he goes. But his form has been very good. We just need to hope he gets through and doesn't pick up any more injuries."
"He is a top defender. I have worked with some really good central defenders. But I have got to say, in the short time I have been here, Vida has been as good as there is. He is everything you would want in a centre-half. He is tough. He is a great leader in the way he plays. He is aggressive at the right moments. I have been really impressed with how good a player he is."