Ferguson offers olive branch to Rooney
Striker 'back to his best' insists former boss after double European strike
Alex Ferguson has paved the way for Wayne Rooney to finally end the uncertainty over his Manchester United future by breaking his silence over the forward to claim he is back to his best.
Having rejected the opportunity to submit an official transfer request last month to force through a move to Chelsea, Rooney cast new doubt over his long-term commitment to United by responding angrily to television questions over his intentions following the 4-2 Champions League victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday, when he scored twice.
Despite being praised by manager David Moyes and having been given the backing of the club's supporters, Rooney's broken relationship with Ferguson continues to be the central factor in the player's unhappiness at United.
The 27 year-old is still seething over Ferguson's public revelation in May that he had asked to leave United after being dropped by the former manager for key games last season.
And Ferguson's ongoing presence as a United director at Old Trafford following his retirement as manager had left the player believing it would be impossible for him to continue playing for the club with the Scot still carrying influence and power.
However, speaking publicly about Rooney for the first time since his retirement, Ferguson has now offered an olive branch to the player by praising his recent form in a wide-ranging interview with MUTV, United's in-house television station.
"Wayne's performance (against Leverkusen) was fantastic," Ferguson said. "I was pleased to see that, he's got his energy back and his determination to attack players.
"It was all very encouraging for me. Being a director I am delighted to see that. He's back to what we always remember him as. We will have a fantastic chance (of success) because in Van Persie and Rooney, you have forwards who can win you games."
Whether Ferguson's decision to soften his position on Rooney and talk highly of the player will change the forward's mind on his future remains to be seen.
Either by design or coincidence, Ferguson spent much of last season emasculating Rooney as a United player having, at various stages of the campaign, claimed that he was lacking the fitness, focus or form to be selected for the first team.
Van Persie's goals and Rooney's diminishing status had appeared to set in motion the player's departure from Old Trafford prior to Ferguson's retirement and Moyes' appointment as his successor.
Ironically, by signalling Rooney's return to top billing with his positive comments, Ferguson may now have strengthened the player's position should he and his advisers pursue the new contract which is likely to be offered by the club later this year.
Rooney's fractured relationship with Ferguson, combined with the club's failure to defend him against the Scot's claims and their refusal to discuss a new contract during the summer are all factors in his so far unresolved situation at Old Trafford.
The England forward, who scored his 200th goal for the club against Leverkusen, hinted at his readiness to remain at United, however, by speaking earlier this week of his admiration of Moyes, his former manager at Everton.
"It's obviously good to be working with him again," said Rooney.
"He's a great manager and thoroughly deserves this job because of what he did at Everton. I have put my head down and worked hard and tried to do everything right.
"I have tried to show the right attitude. I have always felt that's a really important thing to do. That's paying off for me on the pitch. I feel fit and ready to do well."
With Rooney on course to become the all-time record goalscorer in Manchester derbies if he scores against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, Ferguson admits he is relishing life away from the spotlight having ended his 27-year reign as United manager in May.
"I'm enjoying it," Ferguson said. "There are some things you miss and some things you don't. But I'm relaxed about retiring. I left at the right time, but it was a great period of my life being at United.
"I've had my hip operation and I'm now walking and driving. I've got to be careful of doing exercise so the gym and golf are out of the question – but I'm looking forward to a trip to New York."
Despite his move away from the game, however, Ferguson's profile remains high, particularly after suggestions by former Premier League referee Mark Halsey that he persuaded the 71-year-old to speak in support of Mark Clattenburg following claims of racial abuse by Chelsea's John Obi Mikel last season.
Halsey also claimed to have built a friendship with Ferguson involving shared text messages with the former United manager.
"I can't believe some of the stuff," Ferguson said. "The Alex Ferguson element in his book, he feels it's important.
"But all the managers in the north west and some players supported him when he had the cancer, him and his wife. It was a terrible period for the lad and the football fraternity got behind him.
"I didn't read a lot of the summary in the press – to me it's a little bit Walter Mitty some of that stuff."
Ferguson was equally dismissive of Halsey's claims on Clattenburg, saying; "I don't remember that but I didn't need him to do that.
"My take – quite rightly, I know it's 100pc correct – there is no way I can think a referee would ever abuse a player racially. To me it was a load of nonsense." (© Daily Telegraph, London)