Rooney finally apologises to fans and says he would never have joined City

Striker 'delighted' to stay at United and claims he would only have considered move abroad from Old Trafford

Wayne Rooney has finally provided an apology for questioning Manchester United's transfer strategy in the course of securing his new contract and has secured some credit among fans by declaring that he would have moved abroad before signing for Manchester City.

Rooney's calm penalty against Rangers on Wednesday, which sealed Champions League qualification, came on a night when another broadcast interview failed to elicit the apology for "hurting" the team which Sir Alex Ferguson had said would be forthcoming. The one Rooney finally offered to newspaper journalists as he left Ibrox was qualified. "I feel like I have apologised to the fans but everyone keeps saying that I haven't. If that is the case, then I apologise for my side of things."

His scornful insistence that a move to City had never entered his mind will go down well at Old Trafford, though. "Everyone is saying that I was definitely going to Man City," he said. "Believe me, if I had gone it wouldn't have been in England." The prospect of Rooney playing on the continent has actually always seemed highly improbable.

Rooney's 87th-minute goal to clinch a 1-0 win saw him equal Sir Bobby Charlton's 22-goal European tally for United, with Paul Scholes' and Ryan Giggs' totals reachable within this campaign and only Denis Law and Ruud van Nistelrooy out ahead. He has said he can now go on one of his characteristic goalscoring runs: his last goal from open play in the Premier League, deposited early in the victory over Liverpool on 21 March, was his eighth in five games for the club.

"It was typical of Wayne to put himself up there to take the penalty," said Michael Carrick. "It was a great finish to a good night."

Rooney, who has started only six games this season, said it was that disruption that had stunted the campaign rather than any "disaster" with his form. "I don't think I have consistently had a run of games this season. People are saying how bad I have been playing but I don't think I have played that many games for my form to have been a disaster. With everything that has happened it all goes a bit overboard but I know myself I have been through patches before when I haven't played well but I have come through them. I know 100 per cent I will come through this one."

Though Rooney declared when he was fighting to save his marriage two months ago that he was experiencing "hurt", he has now insisted that he has retained mental strength. His willingness to risk the ridicule of the Ibrox crowd, which had booed him on Wednesday night, by taking the penalty, does bear that out. "Mentally I have been okay," Rooney said. "I am mentally strong. Because the football has not been going well and the other things that have happened everyone has put it down to not being mentally strong enough but I am. Obviously the most important thing for me at the minute is to play and score goals."

The 25-year-old's Celtic allegiances also appear to have helped him on Wednesday. "It is well known I follow Celtic," he said. "It is always a special moment [to score] at Rangers."

Rooney has returned from his training break in Oregon looking perhaps half a stone lighter and it was clear from the striker's comments that his manager did not give him any say in the decision to go away for that week earlier this month. "Well, I wasn't going to argue with him," he said. "I needed to get the training in and if that is what they wanted me to do then I was happy to do it and it worked out well."

Though Rooney has remained adamant that he was well within his rights to challenge United's ambition, he said that leaving Old Trafford could have been the biggest mistake he ever made. "You see so many players leave this club and not do so well, so I am just delighted I have stayed," he said.

The Danish goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard has insisted that he can handle the pressure of a move from Norwegian club Aalesunds to United, despite his compatriot Peter Schmeichel suggesting the 26-year-old might not be good enough to play for them. "I have got used to a very physical league in Norway," Lindegaard said. "Here the goalkeepers are the same as outfield players. They are in no way protected by opponents or team-mates."

Of his probable move, he said: "All that money – I don't understand it – but it's not about that. It is about respect for and enjoyment of the game."

Sorry is the hardest word

Wayne Rooney said he felt he had already apologised to United's fans but here's what he had actually said.

22 October

"For me it's about winning trophies. Because of that, the questions I [asked] were justified. I've talked to the manager and owners and they convinced me this is where I belong. I am sure the fans have felt let down. But my position was from concern over the future. The fans have been brilliant with me and it's up to me to win them over again."

Tuesday

"I had my concerns and voiced my opinion. The press have probably made a big issue out of nothing. I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried about the reaction from fans but the reception I got was brilliant. It was a great feeling, after being out for a long time. The main thing is that we managed to agree that deal."

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