Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson dismissed widespread speculation that Wayne Rooney could leave the club at the end of the season, insisting on Friday there was no rift with the England striker.
Rooney was dropped to the bench for Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 match against Real Madrid, the team’s biggest game of the season, sparking stories in the British media that he may be sold.
However, Ferguson said Rooney, who has been at Old Trafford since 2004 when he was signed as a precocious 18-year-old, “will be here next year, you have my word on that.”
“There is no issue between myself and Wayne Rooney. To suggest we don’t talk to each other on the training ground is absolute nonsense,” said Ferguson, who revealed that he had banned two British newspapers from his news conferences for stories written about Rooney in the wake of the Madrid loss.
“He understood the reasons (for not playing) completely.”
Ferguson, speaking for the first time since the Madrid game, maintained his decision to leave Rooney out was tactical, saying fellow striker Danny Welbeck is more adept at performing defensive duties for the team and shackling the Spanish team’s playmaker, Xabi Alonso.
Rooney went on as a 73rd-minute substitute, with Welbeck having been one of United’s best players in their 2-1 defeat.
“Welbeck is the best player we have in terms of operating in a double role,” Ferguson said.
“We had to choke down Alonso’s ability to control the game, which he (Welbeck) did and it took away his (Alonso’s) control of the match and also his ability to move further forward as an attacking player.
“We don’t always get it right but we did get it right on Tuesday.”
The Madrid match swung on the controversial decision by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir to send Nani off for dangerous play when he caught defender Alvaro Arbeloa with a high boot in the 56th minute. United were 1-0 up at the time and in control but Madrid seized the initiative, eliminating United 3-2 on aggregate.
Ferguson didn’t talk to the media after the game – assistant coach Mike Phelan said he was too “distraught” to speak – and United face sanctions from UEFA for failing to fulfil the club’s post-match media obligations.
“Quite simply, it’s hard to keep your faith in the game when you see what has happened in the last few years,” Ferguson said.
“It’s the third time we’ve been knocked out by the referee’s decision.
“It’s not easy to take. But in the analysis in the cold of the day, you realise that at Manchester United, you just have to get on with it. There’s nothing that can be done now. My job now is to galvanise the troops.”
Ferguson, who said before the Madrid game that Rooney needed a “game or two” to get back to full fitness, confirmed Rooney will be involved in United’s FA Cup quarterfinal against Chelsea on Sunday, but didn’t say whether he would start.
“Wayne does need a lot of football,” Ferguson said. “He has always been that type. That has always been the case.”
The last time Rooney’s future at United was up for debate was in 2010, when he claimed the club didn’t match his ambitions and was linked with a move to Manchester City.
City would be one of the few clubs who could afford Rooney’s wages – believed to be in excess of $300,000 a week – but manager Roberto Mancini doubts the move will happen.
“I think that Rooney is one of the best strikers in Europe but I think it is difficult he can leave Man United – I don’t think (so),” Mancini said on Friday.
“I can understand maybe Rooney would be upset if he didn’t play,” Mancini added, “but these are things that can happen in every team. After one week it is finished.”
Elsewhere on Friday, it was revealed that City striker Carlos Tevez faces a jail sentence after being arrested on suspicion of driving while disqualified.
Responding to an inquiry about the Argentina international, Cheshire Police said Friday a 29-year-old man was arrested after he was stopped on a road in Macclesfield, northern England, on Thursday.
Tevez was banned from driving for six months on January 16 after failing to respond to letters by police in relation to incidents where his car was caught speeding.
“The man was arrested on suspicion of driving whilst disqualified and has since been released on police bail,” Cheshire Police said in a statement.
The maximum penalty for driving while disqualified in England is six months in prison.
Tevez admitted in January that he didn’t hold a proper British driving license but denied he was driving when his car was caught speeding. His solicitor said at the time that Tevez didn’t understand some words in the letters from police, and therefore didn’t respond.
Tevez threatened to leave City on two occasions last season and went on unauthorized leave to his native country after refusing to warm up when substitute during a Champions League game against Bayern Munich.
However, he has said in recent interviews that he is settled in England, now that his family is with him.