David Moyes has hailed Wayne Rooney’s form after the forward produced a fine display against Real Sociedad on Wednesday. In a week in which he turned 28, Rooney looked back to his best in the Champions League matchup -- his fine run and shot leading to the opening goal, while playing throughout with the rampaging liberty of his youth. It was also a week in which the autobiography of former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was released, bringing his differences with Rooney at the end of last season back to the surface. Moyes, though, is only interested with Rooney’s performances on the pitch -- with which he continues to be impressed.
“It’s been great working with Wayne because he's an excellent footballer," he said during his pre-match press conference. "I get asked this question every week but I've told you from day one he's been great, his training has been great. I thought he had a very good game in midweek and we want his form to continue, we want him to keep scoring goals. I’m pleased with him. He’s a big plus for us just now.
"He had to make sure he was the best he could be and he's made sure he’s done that. He's in good nick, his talent is unquestionable, he’s physically very good, mentally in a good place and his form has been good."
For the visit of Stoke City on Saturday, Rooney looks set to team up once more with Robin van Persie. The Dutch striker missed out in midweek with several niggling injuries, but Moyes hinted that he is ready to return.
“Robin has a good chance,” he said, according to Manchester United’s official website. “He's had problems with his toes and a little bit with his groin as well, but I think he should be OK. He’s had a little bit of training as well.”
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Marouane Fellaini will continue to play with a cast on his wrist, despite ultimately needing an operation, while Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand will be back in contention. The match looks likely to come too soon, though, for Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley.
The champions badly need to get back to winning ways in the Premier League at Old Trafford. Under Moyes, they have won just once in four home league games, including a 1-1 outcome at Southampton last weekend, which followed a 2-1 loss to West Brom. Such results have given Stoke manager Mark Hughes confidence of getting a positive result at his former stomping ground.
"West Brom have gone there and won, so it's more than possible that we can get a positive result,” he said, according to the official Stoke City website. "We're playing well away from home, arguably slightly better away from home than we are at home, so if we can take our performance level and keep it high we can go there and be positive.”
Stoke enter the match on the back of a goalless result at home to West Brom and, despite Hughes’s claims of positive performances, the team have not won in their last five Premier League outings. Hughes has doubts over defensive duo Geoff Cameron and Ryan Shawcross through injury and illness, respectively, but is confident both will be passed fit.
Prediction: It was far from a faultless performance from United in midweek, with Real Sociedad having a spell in the second half when they easily could have drawn level as Moyes’s side once again looked ragged. There was, though, much encouragement in the team’s attacking display. In particular some of the play between Rooney and Shinji Kagawa was a real joy and should have led to more goals. Still, that formula should provide a blueprint going forward and encourage Moyes to give the Japanese attacking midfielder a regular run in the side. Against a Stoke team without a goal in their last three matches, United’s still suspect defensive credentials are unlikely to be unduly tested and it should be a fairly routine home win.
Manchester United 2-0 Stoke City
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off from Old Trafford at 10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.