MANCHESTER, England — 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 its 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 was 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.