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.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
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 Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'