Friday 24 January 2020

Alex Ferguson: I got rid of the idea of retiring shortly after Wayne Rooney arrived

Wayne Rooney, left, and Alex Ferguson did not always see eye to eye
Wayne Rooney, left, and Alex Ferguson did not always see eye to eye

Sam Wallace

Alex Ferguson has added his voice to the tributes to the Manchester United career of Wayne Rooney, further evidence that the two men have repaired their relationship following the split that marked the Scot’s retirement three years ago.

Ferguson is expected to attend Rooney’s testimonial game against Everton on Wednesday which will raise considerable sums for charity, including the club’s own foundation. In the matchday programme, United’s greatest-ever manager says that Rooney was a key a part of the resurgence of the team under Ferguson around ten years ago.

There was a monumental fall-out between the two when Ferguson retired in 2013 and claimed that Rooney wanted to leave the club. Since then there has been a rapprochement between the pair, although Ferguson was alleged to have withdrawn from the BBC documentary on the player made to celebrate him breaking the England goalscoring record last year.

The 74-year-old Ferguson says that he had tried to sign Rooney from Everton in 2000, when he was still 14, before paying £30 million for him four years later.

Speaking to the official United programme he says: “He [Rooney] was an exciting signing [in 2004]. It was fairly shortly after I’d got rid of the idea of retiring and changed my mind, and I had to rethink about how we were going to take the club forward.

"When you make the decision to retire, you stop thinking, but once I decided to stay I started thinking again and it was really centred around bringing energy back into the team by looking at young players.

“Of course there was Cristiano Ronaldo, then there was Rooney, and it was a fantastic period. The two of them were unbelievable.

"Wayne came in as a first-team player right away, even though he was only 18, and he’s gone on to play for Manchester United for 12 years, which is very difficult in the present day.

"I always think that great players can play in any era. Bobby Charlton would have been a great player today and Wayne Rooney would have been a great player back then.”

There is also a tribute from Louis van Gaal, his first public words since his departing statement from the club on May 23. He describes Rooney as “very important” at the club.

The game is expected to attract a crowd of between 55,000 and 60,000 to Old Trafford with the profits from the day going to Rooney’s own foundation, the club’s foundation, the NSPCC, Claire House children’s hospice and Alder Hey Hospital.

Van Gaal said: “I was very quickly convinced of his [Rooney’s] personality and that’s why he was easy to work with. I quickly decided he would be my captain because I saw also the attitude of his fellow players towards him.

"They approached him always with a lot of respect and that’s also important when you have to install a captain. It is very important that he is seen by his fellow players as a very important person in the dressing room, and there is no question that he is very important at United.”

Rooney’s current manager, Jose Mourinho, said that the player’s achievements had been “simply incredible”. “Wayne has provided many memorable goals and performances in his time here … and I am sure he will provide many more memorable moments for United in the coming years.”

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