Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson reignites Wayne Rooney row

Sir Alex Ferguson has revisited the row over Wayne Rooney's contract stand-off last month with a renewed his attack on the player's agent Paul Stretford who he described witheringly yesterday as ‘not the most popular man in the world.'

Ferguson used a sports conference at the elite sporting centre Aspire4Sport in Qatar to re-assert himself in the dispute between Rooney and Manchester United which was resolved with the player signing a new contract.

Again identifying Stretford as the prime mover behind Rooney's threats not to sign a new deal, Ferguson made it clear that he has not forgotten the events of last month.

On Rooney, Ferguson said: 'You don't necessarily have to heed advice after listening to it. Some young people take bad advice.

“He has an agent who is not the most popular man in the world and he obviously sold it to Wayne to ask away [from United]. The boy rushed in.

“But the minute he heard the response of the public and our supporters, he changed his mind, he knew he'd made a mistake.

“There's nothing wrong with that as long as you recognise it.

“He immediately apologised and agreed a new contract within a couple of hours. It [the stand-off] wasn't done to get the contract, I don't think that for a minute. But maybe he should have listened to better advice.”

Judging by Ferguson's willingness to revisit the argument he must feel that he has won the argument with Rooney.

However, he has clearly not forgiven Stretford, whose clients he has signed in the past — most notably Andy Cole — and it seems as if Ferguson is still determined to drive a wedge between agent and player.

The threat hanging over United was that Rooney could have secured a much more lucrative contract at Manchester City.

That was seen off by a contract that will earn the player as much as £200,000-a-week including bonuses which still represents the biggest paydeal United have ever agreed with a player, by some distance.

Rooney, still recovering from an ankle injury, returned from his stay in Oregon in the United States on Saturday.

“We want to get Wayne back to his best,' Ferguson said.

“He's had a good week in the States and we've got him to the point where we want him to be in terms of accelerating his fitness.

“Is he ready to get into the first team? We'll have to assess that when I get back.”

Speaking openly, Ferguson complained about the ‘tattoos and earrings' of modern players and how they have become much more sensitive to tough criticism than those of an earlier era.

“I've mellowed a great deal,” Ferguson said. “The world has changed and so have players' attitudes.

“I'm dealing with more fragile human beings than I used to be. They are cocooned by modern parents, agents, even their own image at times. They need to be seen with their tattoos and earrings.”

Echoing United chief executive David Gill's comments a day earlier that his retirement seems further away than ever, Ferguson, 69 on New Year's Eve, said that ‘retirement is for young people.'

He said “I'm too old to retire. I would have nothing to do. As long as my health is good I will carry on. My family will make this decision.”

He also defended the club's owners, the Glazer family, saying: “They have never bothered me or interfered with my job. I'm probably in a privileged position. Some owners are hands on because they've invested a lot of money, not just foreign owners.

“I've heard stories of owners texting managers during training sessions, English owners. Just because people are successful in business, doesn't mean they will be successful at a football club.”

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