Rooney defends stance in United contract battle
WAYNE ROONEY has defended the stance he took before signing a new contract, repeating before his probable first Manchester United start for two months at Ibrox tonight that he harboured "concerns" about the club's ambitions before committing himself to his £200,000-a-week deal.
Rooney's interview with the club's in-house television station did not include the apology which some had expected and his manager had said would be forthcoming, for his decision to question the quality of the club's signings during last month's contractual dispute.
The player's keenness to give an interview came as a surprise to MUTV and is the player's attempt to draw a line under the contract issue, which to judge by the mixed messages when he appeared from the bench last Saturday, has left him considerably less loved by fans.
Rooney looked nervous and slightly agitated during a brief interview in which he said of the new deal: "Obviously, I had my concerns and voiced my opinion (about United) and it went there from there really."
He also dismissed suggestions that the new offer, forestalling a forced sale with a player soon out of contract, would enable United to command a better price for him in the summer.
"(The idea that) I've agreed a new deal so the club can agree a higher price with a different team somewhere along the line, which is a load of rubbish," Rooney said. "I've signed a new deal here to stay here. My long-term future is here at Manchester United."
He admitted to nerves immediately before his 54th-minute appearance against Wigan on Saturday.
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried about the reaction from the fans," he said.
He went on to insist that there had been "no problems with the (United) players whatsoever throughout negotiations on my contract, before or after".
It was two hours before United's Champions League home tie with Bursaspor on 20 October that Rooney cast aspersions on some of his team-mates, declaring in a statement that he had been short of "assurances about the continued ability of the club to attract the top players in the world".
In the Old Trafford players' tunnel later that evening, left-back Patrice Evra said: "If one player in the team does not trust the others, he should not play".
Ferguson said, after concluding the new deal 48 hours later, that Rooney had "apologised to me and the players and I think he'll do that with the fans, which is important because we've all been hurt by the events of the past few days".
Rooney seems to see things differently, however.
"I can see the fans' frustration with the contract negotiations and it happened in the public eye, which made it a little bit more difficult," he said.
"But the main thing for myself and the club is that we managed to agree that deal."
Tonight, in a side which Ferguson said will include Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans at centre-back, with Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand resting back in Manchester, Rooney will get another sense of the young players in whom Ferguson made a powerful declaration of faith, hours after the striker had issued his statement.
Midfielder Darren Fletcher is injured.
Ferguson also confirmed last night that he expects to sign the Danish goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard within "the next two or three weeks."
The 26-year-old has four caps for his country.
The United manager said that he thought Rooney still needed two or three weeks to get back to full fitness, 10 days after his return from the trip to Oregon in the United States, arranged to help him recuperate from an ankle injury and escape the spotlight.
But another concern is the form of Dimitar Berbatov, left out against Wigan to allow a "different type of reality", as the manager bafflingly put it, and without a goal in nine games since his hat-trick against Liverpool.
"In fairness to Dimitar, we've been changing the strike partners quite a lot this season," Ferguson said. "I have to accept responsibility for that and perhaps I changed things too much. Now we have to look for more consistency in the team."
Of Rooney he said: "It's been intense for Wayne. It's not been easy. It's been difficult, it's been hard work."
A point against Walter Smith's side would be enough to see United through from Group C, while Rangers' defeat in Valencia, which allowed the Spaniards to leapfrog them into second spot, means that third place -- and a UEFA Cup berth -- now appears their most likely outcome.
Rangers v Manchester United,
Live, UTV/RTE2, 7.45