Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United and Wayne Rooney stay silent over row after Boxing Day night out

By Simon Stone

Wayne Rooney and Manchester United are at one in their desire not to inflame the striker's disciplinary issues with Sir Alex Ferguson any further.

Press Association Sport understands Ferguson did fine Rooney, and Republic of Ireland international Darron Gibson, and force the pair to train on their day off last week after ill-advised conduct on Boxing Day night.

Neither the club nor the player's representative wished to elaborate on the matter, nor even to confirm Rooney was axed from Saturday's 3-2 defeat to Blackburn as part of his punishment.

And now it has been dealt with, it seems the matter is now closed, or at least they have no wish to fuel it, realising United need to regain their focus after being granted a Barclays Premier League reprieve thanks to Sunderland's late win over leaders Manchester City, who remain ahead only on goal difference.

It at least provided an upbeat ending to an eventful 70th birthday weekend for Ferguson - who, prior to the Blackburn game, confirmed his intention to remain at Old Trafford for another three years.

He will need Rooney, and to a lesser extent Gibson, on Tyneside against Newcastle as his team look to bounce back from a rudderless performance at the weekend that was condemned by 19-year-old Phil Jones.

"Too slow, too laboured," he said.

"Our downfall was coming back too soon. We thought we had won it and we eased off. They punished us. On the manager's birthday as well."

The chances are Ferguson was not as measured in the dressing room afterwards.

Griping at referee Mike Dean over the penalty that allowed Ayegbeni Yakubu to put Blackburn ahead, Ferguson then branded the Nigerian's second and Grant Hanley's winner as "bad goals".

He pointedly avoided any criticism of David de Gea directly but after putting together a string of decent performances, the young keeper's failure to cope with the high ball was a throwback to his shaky early displays.

On Friday, Ferguson said De Gea would be in goal for the matches against Blackburn and Newcastle.

But Anders Lindegaard has conceded just once in seven outings and Ferguson must be tempted to make an immediate change.

"That third goal was a killer," admitted the United boss.

"But we need to recover now.

"We are coming to a crucial part of the season and we want to make sure we come back from Newcastle with a proper result."

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