Ferguson backs 'traitor' Rooney to deal with Everton fans' vitriol
Mark Ogden and Chris Bascombe
Alex Ferguson claims Wayne Rooney will never lose his 'traitor' tag at Goodison Park but insists the Manchester United forward is capable of handling the incessant abuse he faces on his return to Everton today.
United will be aiming to bounce back from their humiliating 6-1 defeat against Manchester City at Old Trafford. However, Rooney, who was left out of the squad for last season's fixture at Everton with the United manager claiming he did not want to "subject him to the abuse he gets" at Goodison, could be in for a rough ride.
In recent seasons, the 26-year-old, a £30m buy from Everton in August 2004, has attempted to ease tensions between himself and the team he supported as a boy by publicly ending a feud with manager David Moyes and talking regularly of his ongoing passion for the club.
But despite Rooney's efforts at bridge-building, Ferguson admits that United expect him to bear the brunt of terrace hostility once again.
"Rooney has had mixed success going to Everton," Ferguson said.
"He's scored a couple of goals there in previous games, but he gets booed as normal. But you know what fans are like. He's a traitor as far as they're concerned and he's never going to change that. He's used to that, it's not a problem. I don't think people thrive on abuse, but you can cope with it."
Rooney has scored just two goals in 11 appearances against Everton for United and Ferguson concedes that the atmosphere at Goodison provides a test for his temperament.
"He got booked in one game and I took him off because there was no way I was going to give the referee an opportunity to send him off," Ferguson said.
"With the hype around the ground, he's going to be booed every time he makes a challenge.
"I don't think the Everton players will goad him. There's not been any history of that. He seems to get on well with their players. So hopefully that will be the case this time."
Ferguson's team have not claimed all three points at Goodison Park since September 2007.
"We have got to win," Ferguson said. "But it's never an easy game. I went to see their game against Chelsea on Wednesday and, in typical fashion of a Moyes team, they were all committed.
"They put a shift in. But we have the experience of being able to recover from bad defeats many times and that's what you have to do at a club like United.
"There's no other way. Expectation lives with us every minute of our lives and we get used to that.
"This is no different from other occasions when we've lost games. We have to recover."
Ferguson is expected to restore captain Nemanja Vidic to the heart of defence of alongside Phil Jones, with Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Anderson likely to be dropped after last week's horror-show.
Everton's mounting injury list may open the way for England U-21 midfielder Ross Barkley (17) to get his chance against United, but Moyes has warned against expecting too much too soon from the teenage sensation.
"There's been a bit of a clamour to see him," Moyes said. "People shouldn't be expecting Barkley to be the one who makes Everton better at this stage, but he's got a chance of going right to the top. We have to remind people he's not played much in two years due to injury."
Moyes is already without Phil Neville, out with a hamstring problem, and Tim Cahill who has a groin strain. Phil Jagielka and Louis Saha are also struggling with knocks. (© Daily Telegraph, London)