I did not dive: Rooney
Published 03/04/2014 | 02:30
Wayne Rooney has hit back at claims that he dived to earn a red card for Bastian Schweinsteiger during Manchester United's Champions League draw against Bayern Munich by insisting the German midfielder could have "hurt" him with his studs-up challenge.
With Bayern coach Pep Guardiola criticising referee Carlos Velasco Carballo for dismissing Schweinsteiger, who will be suspended for next Wednesday's quarter-final return leg, and winger Arjen Robben deriding United's "handball" tactics, David Moyes' team will travel to Munich next week buoyed by having unsettled the world, European and German champions.
Bayern's anger at Schweinsteiger's 90th-minute red card for a late challenge on Rooney on Tuesday was borne out by both the player and Guardiola suggesting to the officials that Rooney exaggerated his reaction to the tackle by diving.
But with memories still fresh of March 2010, when Rooney damaged ligaments after being trodden on by Bayern forward Mario Gomez, the United striker claimed he had no option, but to take evasive action to avoid being injured.
"I don't really want to say what he (Schweinsteiger) said, but I think it's a foul," Rooney said. "It could have gone either way, but he could have hurt me. He has gone in with his studs and the referee has booked him (for a second yellow), so it's not my decision. I didn't try to get him sent off, but the referee has made a decision.
"I've tried to stop myself getting hurt and the referee has had a decision to make. Schweinsteiger is a great player and obviously he is someone they will miss, and with (Javi) Martinez also suspended. But they have got a great squad and players who will come in."
Bayern's irritation at failing to win at Old Trafford was exacerbated by Schweinsteiger's dismissal, but both Robben and Guardiola left the stadium complaining about the defensive tactics employed by United.
"It was not easy, as our opponents didn't leave any gaps," Robben said. "We wanted to play football but they tried to stop us. The English were just playing on the counter and have played very defensively. It was almost like in handball."
Guardiola, whose Barcelona team failed to break down a defensively disciplined Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League semi-finals, suggested that United merely played to contain Bayern. "It's not easy when you want to control the game and there are nine players in the box, eight, nine players there," Guardiola said. "It's not easy, but we controlled the game."
Despite the negative reaction to United's game plan, Moyes' team will face Bayern in the Allianz Arena with hope still alive of a place in the semi-finals.
And Rooney claims that United are capable of delivering one of the most remarkable results in the club's European history.
"We're in the game, its 50-50, and you can see there are chances against them," Rooney said. "Bayern play a high line and with a little more composure we can exploit that.
"They are the European champions and we have seen them go to Arsenal and win 2-0, so it's a decent result to get a draw. But it's one result and we are not getting carried away by it.
"We now have to focus on the second leg and make sure we put everything into it. It's a massive game for our season, so we have to make sure we are ready.
"It's a fantastic stadium to play in and to go there with the chance to knock them out, with them being the holders of the competition, is a massive incentive for us. A result there will keep our season alive, so it's a massive challenge for us."
With United boasting the best away record in the Premier League season, despite their domestic struggles, and having lost just once away in Europe, Rooney believes they can take confidence from that in the Allianz Arena.
"We have done better this season away from home," Rooney said. "We went to Bayer Leverkusen and won quite comfortably (5-0) there. But no disrespect to Leverkusen, Bayern are on a different level to them. It will be tough and we have to defend well.
"We know they will have a lot of possession and we accept that, but we'll look to defend well and try to hit them on the break and get chances.
"They are favourites for the tournament and it will be a tough ask, but we needed to give ourselves a chance (in the first leg) and still be in the tie and we have done that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)