David Moyes has claimed Everton's manager, Roberto Martínez, is holding back the careers of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines by not allowing them to be sold to Manchester United.
The club had a £28m joint bid for the duo rejected by Everton last week, with Martínez intent that neither player is for sale. Moyes, who left Goodison Park to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson this summer, made it clear that he would not have stood in the players' way had he been in his old job.
However, the Scot conceded that during his own time in charge of Everton, Manchester City attempted to buy Joleon Lescott for an undervalued price, so he has some sympathy for Martínez.
"I definitely do but I also know that if I'd been Everton manager and Sir Alex had come asking for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, I'd have found it very difficult to keep them because I always felt the right thing to do was what was right for the players," he said. Everton described their former manager's offer for the pair as "derisory and insulting" but Moyes said: "I signed every player at Everton, so I know a lot about them. They are a great club and they are both excellent players."
He added: "The bid, from Manchester United's point of view, was a private thing and if and when we make a new offer we'd keep that offer private and confidential as well." Moyes would not be drawn on whether he was annoyed that Everton had gone public.
"The transfer window is open and we can make bids and you can say 'Yes or no', it's as simple as that. You are allowed to bid. That's not our choice [to make it public]. That's up to them. You need to ask them that question.
"There's sort of a mixed market at the moment. No one is quite sure where the price is right. It's a sort of strange market. Suddenly someone could give you big money. We've had offers for players at this club, which we feel are quite small. I can see it where other clubs might be thinking it's not enough value for their players as well."
Martínez claimed that United lacked "common sense" but Moyes shrugged this off. "All we can do is do our job here. Roberto is in a new job and I'm sure he'll get to understand how Everton work. I know exactly how Everton work. I think I've signed every player at Everton. I know exactly how they work," he said. Moyes was unaware of the former Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall's claim that the Scot was "despicable" regarding the bid.
Asked if Moyes would have felt the same if £28m had been offered to him as Everton manager, he replied: "That's a different question, which I've tried to answer. Everton are a great club, I respect them greatly and I in no way would want to do it in a way that affects them. Of course, taking a player is going to affect them. I'm doing what I have to do in my job.
"I speak to Bill Kenwright [the chairman] regularly, we speak most weeks. He was great for me and hopefully he would think that I'd done a good job for him as well, and Everton. There's no way there's any disrespect whatsoever. This is just a case where we've made an offer, we didn't make it public to anybody, so we'll try and answer the questions as best we can."
Beyond Fellaini and Baines, Moyes still hopes to recruit another midfielder, at least. Yet he admitted the transfer window could end without him making a major signing.
"There's a possibility but the plan is we can bring in one or two if we can," he said. "There's a need to do it but there's no pressure to do it."
Moyes said that Wayne Rooney has a "good chance of starting" for United against Chelsea on Monday evening, with the manager unconcerned that any third bid from their opponents could affect the unsettled striker. United host Chelsea in Moyes's first home league game since succeeding Ferguson, with the club still insistent that Rooney is not for sale at any price.
Yet following the 2-1 defeat of Aston Villa on Wednesday evening at Stamford Bridge, José Mourinho was clear that Chelsea plan to make a final offer for Rooney, who remains determined to join them. Asked if the Portuguese's words will sway any decision to choose Rooney, Moyes said: "Wayne has got a good chance of playing. Well, he's got a good chance of playing against Chelsea, a good chance of starting."
After missing all of United's pre-season games because of a hamstring injury, then a shoulder problem, Rooney started England's 3-2 friendly win over Scotland last week before coming on for the last half-hour at Swansea City three days' later. Despite his unhappiness, the forward again proved what a force he can be, creating United's final two goals in the 4-1 win. He made space for Robin van Persie's second goal of the match, then later produced the pass that allowed Danny Welbeck to add to his first-half strike.
Moyes is relishing the visit by Chelsea and said: "I came for this sort of level but I came to win trophies and if you are going to win them then you do need to beat teams like Chelsea and Manchester City because that's the way our league is. I'm looking forward to it."