I secretly followed Wayne Rooney around to prevent Everton exit – didn't want anyone near him

Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring for Everton
-Credit: (Image: ©Mirrorpix)

David Moyes has revealed how he followed Wayne Rooney without his knowing in an effort to keep him at Everton.

The Scot was in charge at Goodison Park when a teenage talent from Croxteth emerged from the club's academy and forced his way into the first team. Moyes, 61, was all too aware of the quality asset he had on his hands and went to major lengths to keep admirers and the media alike at a distance prior to him joining Manchester United in 2004.

Rooney, 38, was just 16 when he earned his senior debut for the Toffees, and it wasn't long before the big guns of English football came calling. But Moyes was far from resigned to the prospect of his star leaving, so much so that he took it upon himself to stalk his own player in a bid to keep him loyal.

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"Wayne probably doesn’t know - well, he might know - I used to go everywhere Wayne was playing, nearly without him knowing," said Moyes during an appearance on The Rest Is Football. "Made his debut for England, I was there. Without him knowing.

"When he broke his metatarsal, I was over in Portugal for the games out there [at Euro 2004]. And the papers were saying, 'Wayne is meeting on a yacht,' and I was f*****g raging.

"I was saying, 'Don't let anyone get near him. Don't let anybody near him.' Because I really wanted to keep him. You've got to remember, I was a young manager [at Everton]."

Everton Manager David Moyes with Wayne Rooney after he signed a three and a half year contract
David Moyes gave Rooney his Everton breakthrough -Credit:EMPICS

There's no single blueprint for managers when it comes to preserving the allegiances of certain players. However, one could hardly blame Moyes growing somewhat desperate to keeping Rooney - whom he later managed again at United - under his wing given it's not everyday a club like Everton produces such potential.

However, he did look to former colleagues and peers for inspiration on how to handle the situation. And it was actually Rooney's future employer at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson, who acted as a sort of muse in how to tackle the dilemma.

"The only thing I could remember was Charlie Nicholas at Celtic was a little bit like that. How did [then-Celtic manager] Billy McNeill control Charlie," he added. "And the other one was Giggsy and Fergie. How did Fergie controlled Giggsy at that time? And obviously, Alex did it with an iron rod, which I think Scottish managers had in abundance at that time.

Manager David Moyes speaks to Wayne Rooney during the match between Everton and Manchester United
The pair reunited at Old Trafford -Credit:John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

"And I don’t think it suited Wayne that I was like that because I was saying make sure you’re not doing that. And there are bits of it, you do look back and regret. But that's life. He changed his agent - and he's got a really good agent in Paul Stretford, who he's had for years - before you know it, we were getting Coca Cola adverts and something else coming in, and I didn't like it."

The efforts were insufficient in the end as Rooney went on to join United in 2004 for a £25.6million fee, becoming the top scorer for both club and country in a highly decorated career. But it wasn't for a lack of trying that his first senior manager lost his services to a powerhouse of the Premier League.

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