Tuesday 24 October 2017

Rooney hits back at Ferguson jibe over fitness

Jason Burt

Wayne Rooney has hit back at suggestions that he is fitter this season than in previous campaigns, when his level of conditioning was questioned.

His comments came after Manchester United manager David Moyes stated that he will give Rooney a mid-season break – so that the forward does not suffer burn-out due to the number of games he has to play.

Moyes's predecessor Alex Ferguson criticised Rooney's fitness in his recent autobiography. However, in a thinly veiled rebuke, the United striker insisted his statistics showed there was no difference between last season and now, when he is being lauded for his fitness levels.

"I'm just saying it's the same as last season. But, obviously, it's been noticed this season. That's all," the England international said when asked whether his fitness had not been appreciated.

"Every player gets the stats from every training session and every game. The stats are pinned up around the training ground every day and after every game you always get your stats. And it's the same system with England at Wembley.

"It's something which you can monitor in terms of how much work you are doing. Sometimes you do need a bit of a rest, so that's what we do.

"I think it's something we see every day, the coaches give us every day and they have done for years. So it's important to know how much running you're doing and it's important to know when you need a rest at times. That's why we look at them."

Although Rooney was careful not to specifically criticise Ferguson – or, indeed, to assert that he was fitter or leaner working under Moyes – there was an edge to his remarks.

In his book Ferguson wrote: "Wayne needed to be careful. He has great qualities about him but they could be swallowed up by a lack of fitness."

Ferguson also criticised England manager Roy Hodgson for giving Rooney a week's holiday before Euro 2012 – he went to Las Vegas – because "he might lose his edge".

"If he missed a couple of weeks for United it could take him [Rooney] four or five games to get his sharpness back," Ferguson suggested.

Rooney's relationship with Ferguson deteriorated dramatically last season and the player wanted to leave United and join Chelsea in the summer – although he continues to dispute the former manager's claim that he submitted a transfer request.

Rooney was upset by Ferguson questioning his fitness, which culminated with him being omitted from the second leg of United's Champions League tie at home to Real Madrid in favour of Danny Welbeck.

Last Christmas, Rooney was dropped and fined after turning up for training in a condition Ferguson considered to be unconducive to him performing well.

United's training ground at Carrington is state-of-the-art with the way it monitors and tests the players and Moyes has spoken of his delight with Rooney's physical condition and attitude.

The United manager also said that he had expected Rooney to start for England against Chile and Germany but conceded he did not expect him to feature for "quite so long" – 90 minutes and 71 minutes respectively.

"I know the way Wayne is at the moment and he wants to play games," said Moyes. "I'll need to try to look after Wayne as we go along and I said this to him.

"With the intensity of his football and how well Wayne is playing, I was hoping we could have got Wayne some time off in the international break but obviously Roy has to pick his teams and the games were important for him. I respect that. But somewhere along the line I'll probably need to give Wayne a breather.

"I think I probably need to look after him somewhere in the next two months. If I get an opportunity, I might be able to give him a little bit of time off as he is incredible with his effort and work. Even in the England game I thought he worked his socks off. We need that. We've seen a Wayne Rooney we all like and all enjoy watching but we can't run him into the ground all the time.

"The level he is at and the distance he is covering and his energy, we would be wrong if somewhere down the line we didn't look at it. We don't want his form to dip and we'll have to keep an eye on that."

Rooney is expected to start in the Premier League match away to Cardiff City today and Moyes said that when it came time to give the striker a rest, probably around the FA Cup third round at the beginning of January, he expected him to "trust us to make the right call at the right time".

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