David Moyes has praised Wayne Rooney's recent form and attitude but says he still wants more from the striker going into the Manchester derby.
Rooney has returned from a bad gash to his head in eye-catching style, scoring three goals in four days, including a double in Tuesday's UEFA Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen that saw him become only the fourth player in United history to reach 200 goals.
The England striker's rich vein of form has inevitably led to speculation United may offer the 27-year-old a contract extension, something former manager Sir Alex Ferguson appeared to pave the way for with conciliatory statements on MUTV.
Moyes neatly sidestepped that particular question at his press conference on Friday lunchtime.
However, ahead of Sunday's visit to Manchester City, the United boss confirmed he will carry on demanding more of the striker and said: "I think we just go step by step.
"If he could score another two goals at the weekend that would be the next step forward wouldn't it?
"He's played really well and we want him to maintain that. If anything I'm asking him to step up again. I want him to keep getting better.
"Wayne trained really hard and was in great shape just before he damaged his hamstring in Thailand - I told you that but I don't know if you all believed me. We thought he was going to be OK, but it wasn't.
"We kept him working really hard. Well, he did that, I should say. He was in really good shape. I was really impressed with the condition he was in and the work he did in pre-season. He is getting the fruits of that. He's worked hard and is showing everyone exactly what he can do."
Moyes also singled out midfielder Antonio Valencia for praise after the Ecuador international opened his goal account this season against Leverkusen.
The former Wigan player has reverted back to his old shirt number of 25 and the Scot said: "He has done very well. They keep telling me that he needed to change his number so we got that changed for him! Sometimes, psychologically, it can make a difference to a player.
"Overall, I've been really pleased with him. I actually said to him today: 'You should be getting yourself seven or eight goals a season regularly'. He looked at me and squinted a bit. Hopefully he knows what I mean!
"I don't know how many he scored last season, I think it was only one. He's got off to a good start and hopefully he'll get close to the target I'd like to him get this season."
Now Moyes must decide on his line-up for Sunday, and his first encounter with Manuel Pellegrini since the City boss dumped him out of the Champions League qualifiers with his Villarreal side in 2005.
"There is an excitement for any derbies in any big city in the world," said Moyes. "I've experienced derby games in Glasgow and on Merseyside. They are all really important to your own supporters.
"They are important to the players as well but ultimately it's about what happens come the end of the season and how many points you get together to see who is top.
"These points could be really important towards that, but also they may not be."
Watch the Manchester derby live on Ford Super Sunday, coverage starting at 3.30pm on Sky Sports 1 HD