Fergie sees red after Rooney's night out
Wayne Rooney was fined a week's wages and dropped from the Manchester United team for Saturday's defeat against Blackburn after angering Alex Ferguson with a 'lethargic' display in training following a St Stephen's Day night out with team-mates Darron Gibson and Jonny Evans.
Rooney, who celebrated United's 5-0 St Stephen's Day win against Wigan by joining Gibson and Evans on an evening out in Southport, was also forced to train on a scheduled day off last week because of Ferguson's fury at the 26-year-old's performance in training last Tuesday.
While neither United nor Rooney's representatives were prepared to comment publicly on the issue yesterday, beyond confirmation that action had been taken by Ferguson, it is understood that Rooney, Gibson and Evans have been issued with the same punishment of one week's wages and extra training.
And contrary to suggestions that Ferguson had issued the fines as a result of the players being out on St Stephen's Day -- five days before Saturday's fixture against Blackburn -- it has emerged that no curfew was in place and that the reason for the punishment was the lack of focus and energy noticed by United's coaching staff in the efforts of the three players on Tuesday.
Ferguson alluded to his dissatisfaction with Rooney prior to the 3-2 defeat against Blackburn on Saturday when asked why the England forward, who watched the game from a private box, had failed to make the match-day squad.
"Wayne hasn't trained well this week," Ferguson said. "He has missed a few days, but hopefully has trained today and will train tomorrow and then hopefully be back for Wednesday."
With a source close to the Rooney camp stressing that the player's relationship with Ferguson has not been affected by the disciplinary measures and a United source saying the matter "is forgotten about, it's all over", it is expected that the forward will be restored to the starting line-up for Wednesday's trip to Newcastle.
Rooney's only comment yesterday was on Twitter, where he wrote: "My resolution -- to start the year as a champion, and finish it as a champion."
Ferguson's decision to leave Rooney out of the team against Blackburn appeared unusual judging by the lack of experience on the substitutes' bench against a team who arrived at Old Trafford as the Premier League's bottom club.
Youngsters Will Keane and Larnell Cole were both preferred to Rooney, while Ireland midfielder Gibson, who played in the win against Wigan, was also absent.
Northern Ireland centre-back Evans had already been ruled out of the Blackburn game with a calf strain sustained against Wigan.
The three players were not breaking club rules by socialising on St Stephen's Day evening and on the trip to Southport they spent some of the evening in the bar and restaurant of The Vincent, an exclusive hotel, close to the Warehouse Kitchen+Bar, which is owned by Liverpool's Steven Gerrard.
When the players reported for training on Tuesday morning, however, it was soon made clear to Ferguson that they were not able to perform to the expected standards, prompting the manager to discipline all three and summon them in for training on Wednesday, when the majority of the first-team squad had been permitted to take the day off.
By choosing to fine Rooney and then omit him from the team against Blackburn, Ferguson has inevitably raised questions about his relationship with United's most high-profile player.
Although Rooney has spoken publicly on several occasions of his respect and admiration for Ferguson, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Saturday, the former Everton forward angered the Scot last season by rejecting a new contract and making clear his desire to leave Old Trafford.
Ferguson admitted that the stand-off had been a damaging episode for the club, but Rooney was ultimately persuaded to commit himself to a new five-year contract at the end of a turbulent week during which the player openly questioned the club's ambition in a public statement.
Prior to the contract row, Rooney had been dropped by Ferguson for a trip to Everton in September 2010 at the height of lurid off-field revelations about the player's private life.
Rooney had also angered Ferguson in October 2010 by questioning his role in the team during a lengthy goal drought at the start of the 2010-11 season, but the pair appeared to have resolved any differences in the second half of the campaign -- after Rooney had been sent to Nike HQ in the US for a week of intensive training -- as the player helped United to an 19th title and the Champions League final.
At times this season, Rooney has cut a frustrated figure, with his annoyance at the performance of team-mates more visible than in the past. (© Daily Telegraph, London)