Belfast Telegraph

Rooney speech a big hit for United

Wayne Rooney put off-field problems to one side and delivered an inspirational speech that propelled Manchester United to a bruising knockout victory over Tottenham.

Rooney was subjected to an unwanted set of headlines after apparently being knocked out by Phil Bardsley during a sparring session in the kitchen of his Cheshire mansion.

Video footage published by The Sun - apparently shot on February 22 - shows Bardsley knocking Rooney to the floor in a playful scrap between the two former United team-mates.

The video was the talk of the airwaves and social media outlets on Sunday morning, but the England and United captain did not seem perturbed by the episode and scored a fine goal in the 3-0 rout against Tottenham before celebrating with a fine display of shadow-boxing in the corner.

After the match, Rooney's team-mate Marouane Fellaini revealed the captain had delivered a rousing speech to the squad on the eve of the game - and it clearly worked.

"It was a very important speech," the United midfielder told the BBC.

Manager Louis van Gaal knew his captain had given the speech, but was unable to witness it himself as it was in a players-only meeting.

"I was aware of (the speech)," Van Gaal said.

"The players know this game was of massive importance so I think a captain has to do something to help the players or help the manager or help the club. I was very pleased.

"I was not in the meeting because the captain has his own privileges."

Van Gaal would not be drawn into giving his opinions on the story when asked in his post-match press conference.

"I think it is a ridiculous world where we live that I have to answer questions (like that)," the Dutchman said.

"What is this world, twisted? I don't want to answer questions about such things."

Rooney enjoyed his goal celebration but was keen to play down the story and bemoaned the fact it had reached the public domain.

"That's the world we live in today. It's in my own home, it's not public, it's what friends do - they mess around in the house," the United captain told Sky Sports.

"It was a couple of mates in a private house, and somehow it's managed to get on the front page of a national newspaper."

Rooney took advantage of a misplaced pass by Nabil Bentaleb and bundled his way past two Spurs players before scoring the third and final goal of a hugely successful afternoon for United.

Rooney, 29, insisted the publication of the story did not distract him in the build-up to the game.

He said: "I've just been focused on the game, it's more interesting for other people rather than for me. You've seen today, I've done a professional job and helped my team win 3-0."

Midfielder Michael Carrick revealed after the match that he and his team-mates had poked fun at Rooney over the episode.

"He got a little bit of stick," Carrick said. "I am not telling you what was said. It's a 'no comment' on that one."

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