Sir Alex Ferguson helps Manchester United in efforts to keep Wayne Rooney

Conciliatory former manager hails striker as 'back to his best' but denies claims by former referee Mark Halsey

Sir Alex Ferguson joined Manchester United's efforts to woo Wayne Rooney tonight, saying four months after his comments drove a wedge between striker and club that the 27-year-old was "back to what we always remember him as".

Rooney passed up the chance to say that he felt emotionally restored to the club this week, with his anger over his former manager's public declaration that he had demanded a transfer fundamental to his desire to leave for Chelsea.

New manager David Moyes – who may be without Danny Welbeck for Sunday's Manchester derby – will hope that the 71-year-old repaired a little of the damage when he delivered glowing praise for the striker's part in defeating Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.

The performance had been "terrific", said Ferguson, who seemed to be fiddling with his mobile phone in the directors' box as Rooney left the field to an ovation against the Germans.

"I thought there was a lot of key elements. Wayne's performance was fantastic. I was pleased to see that. He's got his energy back. His determination to attack players. It was all very encouraging for me. Being a director I am delighted to see that. He's back to what we always remember him as."

The retired manager is clearly irritated by material relating to him in former referee Mark Halsey's autobiography, Added Time and suggested to the club's in-house media that some of it was "a little bit Walter Mitty" – the implication being that Halsey was imagining some of the stories he told. The former referee's suggestion that he was on texting terms with Ferguson is the most highly controversial.

"I can't believe some of the stuff [in the book]," Ferguson said. "The Alex Ferguson element in his book – [Halsey] feels it's important. But all the managers in the North West and some players supported him and his wife when he had cancer.

"It was a terrible period for the lad and the football fraternity got behind him. We gave him jersey after jersey for all the dinners he was having. Of course a Manchester United strip figures greatly in these auctions. A signed strip. And other players donated other items as well.

"But the laughable thing in all this is that I influenced the refereeing fraternity. If you think about it, this is [me] – the guy with the worst record in the history of English football. I was fined round about £100,000 by [the Football Association]. Suspended so many times. Some influence, I must say! I didn't read a lot of the summary in the press – to me it's a little bit Walter Mitty some of that stuff."

Halsey claimed he had asked Ferguson to intervene at one of his Friday press conferences to vouch for Mark Clattenburg at the time, last October, when he was wrongly accused of racism by John Obi Mikel – a claim that was unfounded.

"I don't remember that but I didn't need [Halsey] to do that," Ferguson said. "I was going to be asked that anyway in the press conference. We'd played [Chelsea] that week so the next press conference was always going to be full of that. My take – quite rightly; I know it's 100 per cent correct – [is that] there is no way I can think a referee would ever abuse a player racially."

Ferguson said he misses "the banter in the dressing room, the humour on the training pitch, relationships built over a long period." He doesn't miss "press conferences on a Friday."

Welbeck did not train again today because of a swollen knee which repeatedly troubles him.

PROMOTED VIDEO
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

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible