Ian Herbert: Ferguson can show once again he is the great man-manager

Well, that really was the easy bit. The pre-match stadium anthem in Basle on Tuesday night was Status Quo's "Whatever you Want", which neatly summed up the Swiss defence's generosity towards Wayne Rooney. Now, in the space of four days, he must encounter both his wife and Everton's fans, both of whom believe they have suffered the greatest act of infidelity imaginable. And looming into view behind those two obstacles are the massed supporters of Rangers and Liverpool – who are Manchester United's next opponents. Not really what Rooney wanted.

The events of the past five days are certainly enough to allow David Moyes a wry smile. Moyes was characterised in Rooney's biography 'My Story So Far' as an overbearing and controlling individual – a depiction for which the striker has since apologised – and it was only eight months ago the Everton manager finally tried to explain that he had tried to instil the discipline, including substituting a disgusted Rooney at Bolton a few days after he had flown to Madrid to take part in a Coca-Cola commercial, for a reason. "All I ever wanted to do was handle Wayne like Sir Alex handled Ryan Giggs," he said. "I looked at it and thought, 'Who could guide me?'"

Moyes' instincts seem to have been right all along. Except that Giggs, whose worst misdemeanour came on the night Ferguson hunted down Lee Sharpe at a house party but failed to find the winger cowering in a cupboard, has never needed the management Rooney does.The question now is how Ferguson will deal with this mess.

With equanimity, for sure. The marital strife story is one that Ferguson has encountered many times, in many guises, before. He has also been on the receiving end of a kiss-and-tell story headlines from Aberdeen, which he has always vigorously denied – and there will be no confrontation when Rooney returns to training at Carrington, possibly not until today. A good allusion – if not an entirely comparable one – is the night Ferguson was dragged, bleary-eyed, from his bed 13 years ago, having been informed by telephone call that Roy Keane had been accused of assaulting a woman in a Manchester city-centre bar during a drinking session that followed one of United's championship triumphs.

Ferguson masked his horror at United being paraded across the front pages of the tabloids again and said: "Tell me the story, Roy." Keane unburdened his anguish at the effects of the incident on his wife, Theresa, their then young family, his own family back in Cork and the club. Ferguson has never revealed the details of their conversation, but suffice it to say that Keane has never drunk publicly since; nor, it is claimed, privately.

The encounter with Rooney will be similar. Ferguson will draw his prime talent into the United fold, a protective place against malign outside forces, as he increasingly likes to characterise it. If there is a sharp word to be delivered then it will be about the £200 which was dispensed to a hotel porter, to fetch 20 Marlboro – not the money, but the latest evidence that Rooney is smoking. But beyond that, Ferguson has the knack of using adversity to bind player and club together.

That's not to say there will not be disappointment at this alleged act of betrayal. While Ferguson was always contemptuous of Victoria Beckham and the distraction he felt she posed to her husband, David, he saw something different in Coleen McLoughlin. "She's a clever girl, who is down to earth. She's good," he said a few years ago and was delighted to hear that Rooney was to marry. "Marriage helps footballers. It helps them settle down," he added. "You know where they are, too. It's good for the stability of a footballer."

That was not to be in this case, despite curious indications that marriage had changed Rooney, including the prominent cross he wore at the World Cup this summer. "It's my religion. I've been wearing them for years now," he said of the cross. In retrospect, the gesture looks like penance.

How much Ferguson will risk intruding on the personal aspect of the controversy is a matter for his own judgement. Since United need Rooney as much as he needs the club, the manager will give it the deepest thought. But he will not find the conversation onerous. Ferguson has always seen Rooney as one of his own and no one's powers of communication with the striker are quite like his. When the Englishman last presented him with a major man-management challenge – after he and Cristiano Ronaldo returned from the 2006 World Cup with daggers drawn – the football world expected a lasting fissure to run between two of the club's finest talents. Within two years they were carving out the deadly partnership which took Ronaldo to 41 goals in a season and United to the European Cup.

Rooney's reaction to the abuse which will flow in the next two weeks may make him less of the force United would want as they seek to restart their season. Temperamentally, he is less capable of blocking it out than Paul Ince was when he went back to West Ham and Eric Cantona to Leeds. But it is difficult to see lasting damage on the field of play. A permanent break with his formidably capable wife is a different case entirely, but one over which both Rooney and his manager may now have little control.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee