x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Ferguson is unusually open

Sir Alex Ferguson walked into the packed press room in the bowels of the Old Trafford main stand, the grey Manchester clouds outside setting the ominous tone for what would follow.

Sir Alex Ferguson leaves yesterday’s press conference at Old Trafford after revealing Wayne Rooney wants to leave Manchester United.
Sir Alex Ferguson leaves yesterday’s press conference at Old Trafford after revealing Wayne Rooney wants to leave Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson walked into the packed press room in the bowels of the Old Trafford main stand, the grey Manchester clouds outside setting the ominous tone for what would follow.

The Manchester United manager was contractually obliged to speak to the media ahead of tonight's Champions League game against Bursaspor, the Turkish champions, though none of the assembled journalists wanted to question him about that.

The issue on everyone's mind was Wayne Rooney's future and speculation was rife about whether Ferguson would discuss him at all. After all, on Sunday, United had released a statement denying any stories that Rooney would be leaving. That was not true. What Ferguson eventually had to say stunned the football world, but first there was a surreal pre-amble where Ferguson looked relaxed as he talked about his team alongside John O'Shea, the defender.

It was only when the word Rooney was mentioned that his eyes tightened and his demeanour changed. "Do you plan to start Wayne?" ventured a tabloid reporter. "Wayne's injured," Ferguson replied, "ankle." As there was a kerfuffle among the journalists - Rooney had stated last week that he was not injured - a United official interrupted with: "No questions on that. We'll have an interview about that at the end." And the press conference returned to talking in a relaxed atmosphere about the game as the huge elephant in the room was ignored for another five minutes. It was a game and Ferguson knew it.

Finally, he gave his version of events about Rooney - one which counteracted that from the Rooney camp that Ferguson and he have had a fall out and the pair have not spoken for a month. "There's been no fall out, no argument," Ferguson said, "not a bit. [But] we need to clarify the position now for our fans." Ferguson, portraying himself as the wounded party, then said that Rooney had told United twice that he wants to leave the club, first to David Gill, the chief executive, during preliminary contract extension negotiations in August, then to his manager face-to-face.

Ferguson was composed yet strangely shorn of the normal fire and authority he usually possesses in spades. "I had a meeting with the boy and he reiterated what his agent had said," Ferguson said. "He wanted to go. "I said to him, 'Just remember one thing: respect this club. I don't want any nonsense from you, respect your club'. "I don't know if he has done that. I have doubts on that, we are reading all these things about falling out with me and all that nonsense. "It's disappointing because we have done everything we possibly can to help Wayne Rooney ever since he came to the club." Ferguson has had plenty of trouble from Rooney and stated: "We've always been there as a harbour for him. "Any time he's been in trouble, the advice we've given him - I've even been prepared to give him financial advice, many times. But you do that for all your players, not just Wayne Rooney. "That's Manchester United. This is a club which bases all its history and its tradition on the loyalty and trust between managers and players and the club.

"That goes back to the days of Sir Matt [Busby, the club's legendary manager who led them to a first European Cup in 1968]. That's what it's founded on. "Wayne's been a beneficiary of this help, just as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and all the players have been." The United manager was brutally honest. It will be fascinating to hear Rooney's version of events. Ferguson spoke of his "disappointment" at the situation and at the role of modern agents "who live in their players' pockets". A clear dig at Rooney's agent, Paul Stretford. He also maintained that there is still a contract offer "with the best terms possible for any player in the country". He added: "We have to keep the door open for him, simply because he's such a good player." Yet few United fans expect the club's best player to stay much longer.

 

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