FA Cup: No arguments allowed as Sir Alex Ferguson tries to put Wayne Rooney story to bed

Manchester United manager says his striker is going nowhere and that reports of a falling out are 'absolute rubbish'

Sir Alex Ferguson has found many a way of quashing Wayne Rooney stories, down the years. There was one of the fiercest deployments of the hairdryer ever seen in a press conference, eight years ago, when some mild prodding about a challenge the forward had recently made on Tal Ben Haim, then of Bolton Wanderers, so angered him that the tape recorders were sent cascading across the floor amid a hail of expletives. The room temperature became equally uncomfortable when a temporary blip in the 20-year-old Rooney's form was raised a year later. "Are you hoping I'm going to tell you 'that's the end of Wayne Rooney'," Ferguson said. "You want me to say something to give you a good headline don't you? Wayne's your No 1 seller and, without him, you wouldn't sell half as many papers…"

Today was always likely to be different. The Manchester United manager is a wise operator who knows that raising hell about the reporting of his relationship with Rooney would only fan the flames. So it was a sanguine Ferguson – though not one looking entirely relaxed – seeking to put to bed the idea that there was a problem with the striker, whom United are understood to be ready to dispense with if they receive an offer in excess of £20m this summer.

Usually, Ferguson opens with injury news and a few introductory remarks, though today brought a much longer preamble after a week dominated by reports of Rooney's imminent Old Trafford exit and of his sometimes strained relations with the manager. The Independent, which reported the latter notion, though not the former, is one of two newspapers to have been excluded from the manager's press conferences, as a result. The banning order briefly became a part of the story today after Ferguson mentioned it – which gives you some idea of the circus he is up against every day of his life. The manager has come to detest the circus so much that he holds a deep belief those who write about his club are scavengers, seeking only to make money out of it. It makes reporting the place a little like covering the Vatican, at times, except that Ferguson has never taken to Twitter in the way that Pope Benedict did. Even reporting incontrovertible facts can incur the manager's wrath and bring exclusions. There is a constant weighing of consequences. Thursday's reporting in these pages was not undertaken lightly.

The significance of Rooney's omission from the United starting XI against Real Madrid, to make room for Danny Welbeck, was grossly exaggerated, Ferguson said. "Do you want to get rid of the nonsense first or do you want to talk sense?" he began. "The issue which you're all going on about which is absolute rubbish in the papers. There is absolutely no issue between Wayne Rooney and I. To suggest we don't talk to each other on the training ground is absolute nonsense." This notion has not been suggested anywhere this week, though the impending exit of a player whose £250,000-a-week contract Ferguson must soon decide whether to upgrade, with two years left to run on it, certainly has. Rooney is not leaving, the manager insisted.

Asked if the 27-year-old would remain at the club for years, he declared that there was "absolutely no problem with that. He will be here next year. You can get my word on that. There's no issues at all with the player. He understood the reasons for [me] not playing him [against Madrid] were completely tactical. And I think we were right. We don't always get it right but I think we did get it right."

For his part, the Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, was maintaining the same line on Rooney which he adopted when his club were circling, two years ago – namely that he admires him deeply. "I think Rooney is one of the best strikers in Europe but it is difficult for him to leave Manchester United. It would be hard," Mancini said.

Ferguson, who once told us that he wouldn't sell Real Madrid a virus, let alone Cristiano Ronaldo, and maintained that David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy were going nowhere, did not allow the Rooney subject to go off in many other directions. There was a tense moment when he was boldly asked "could you say what the issue is with his fitness" and to explain his frequent references, returned to minutes before the Madrid game, about Rooney needing "a game or two" to attain match fitness after injury. Ferguson frowned. "I think he does need a lot of football. He is that type. He has always been that type. It's always been the case," he replied. The manager suggested he may be a less common presence at press conferences and that his assistant, Mike Phelan, would be getting more of that work, having been sent up on Tuesday in place of a Ferguson who was said to be in "no fit state" – as Phelan put it – to discuss Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir's dismissal of Nani. "He is very good at press. I'm going to use him more," Ferguson said, with an explanation for hanging back which was at odds with Phelan's. It was "a nice time to have a chat and nice glass of wine with Jose [Mourinho] and relax a bit".

Sunday brings a manager with whom there will be no such conviviality, with Rafael Benitez standing in the way of a first FA Cup triumph in nine years for United. There wasn't a huge amount of sympathy for the current plight at Chelsea of the Spaniard, of whom Ferguson once declared: "I would need to read more of Freud before I could understand all that went on in his head." That was the day before Benitez's Liverpool side won 4-1 at Old Trafford, in 2009, with Torres operating at heights he has arguably never scaled since. "I read about Freud when I was at school and university," Benitez replied that night.

Ferguson will be without Phil Jones until Reading's arrival next week and will also be trying to put behind him the feeling, which he articulated today, that three referees have blotted United's Champions League history. They are the Russian Valentin Ivanov, against Porto at Old Trafford in 2004, Nicola Rizzoli who dismissed Rafael da Silva against Bayern Munich six years later, and now Cakir.

There is some circling of the wagons going on, which is likely to make United, their European exit still raw, a tougher prospect on Sunday than the one Benitez encountered four years ago. "It's not easy to take but then in the analysis of the cold light of day you realise that at Manchester United you just have to get on with it," Ferguson reflected. "There's nothing that can be done now..."

Roy Keane was swatted away like a fly, when his suggestion that Nani was rightfully dismissed was mentioned. "Look, there are a lot of panelists," Ferguson said of the man who was once the heartbeat of his team. "I'm the manager of Manchester United. It doesn't matter who talks about Manchester United – we just have to get on with our job."

Rooney will almost certainly start on Sunday, though Ferguson would not say as much. "I'm not prepared to give away my team. Why should I?" he asked. "Why I should help anyone? We don't do that."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003