Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Steven Beacom: Sir Alex Ferguson has lost a battle, but the war will carry on

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19: Sir Alex Ferguson the manager of Manchester United reads a statement to the media regarding the future of Wayne Rooney during a press conference at Old Trafford on October 19, 2010 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Watching Sir Alex Ferguson’s press conference, I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

In the past when Manchester United have endured troubled times, Ferguson has been renowned for coming out fighting.

And winning with knockout blows, his eyes full of fire.

That wasn’t the case yesterday.

The flames were out.

If the eyes are the gateway to the soul, they told us that Fergie is feeling hurt and betrayed.

My God, this knight of the realm and fearless warrior even looked a little vulnerable.

It is true what they say then, if you live long enough, you WILL see everything.

The reason for this extraordinary sight? Wayne Rooney.

In his MUTV interview, Sir Alex was a little more like himself, but even then you could tell that he was mystified, bewildered and feeling let down by Rooney’s desire to leave Manchester United.

After all, it was Ferguson who turned the boy into a man when signing him from Everton.

It was Ferguson who nurtured a natural talent, making him one of the finest footballers on the planet.

It was Ferguson, who protected Rooney when he returned home in shame from the 2006 World Cup after being sent off as England lost to Portugal in the quarter-finals.

And it was Ferguson who helped make Rooney’s dreams come true, in winning Premiership and Champions League medals.

For all that Ferguson expected loyalty.

In return he effectively got a boot in the head.

Rooney told United that he would not be extending his contract back in August.

Clearly his troubled private life has not been the only thing on his mind in the last six months, when his form has been shocking.

Ferguson says he hasn’t had a fall-out with Rooney, but he is clearly angry with his star player, even going as far to suggest he has been disrespectful to the club — a club that the boss still sees as the best in the world, even if the team right now aren’t the best in Manchester.

The contract is still on the table for Rooney, but Ferguson’s body language yesterday was of a man who has lost this particular battle, though he was canny enough to take the high moral ground against someone who will be seen as a modern day selfish footballer.

Rooney is out for three weeks with an ankle injury — how ironic is that given that the pair were at odds over his previous one?

Shortly after his return the January transfer window will fly open.

Rooney has to be sold as quickly as possible, even if that is to noisy neighbours City, while United and Fergie will regroup.

And then you might just see the great Scot come out fighting like never before.

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