Belfast Telegraph

Sir Alex Ferguson warns troubled Manchester Untied striker Wayne Rooney

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has cautioned Wayne Rooney that he must finally find a way of dealing with the intense public scrutiny that he will always face off the field if he is to continue to prosper on it.

Ferguson has consistently refused to answer questions about the allegations surrounding Rooney's private life, but did talk around the topic in an interview with Gazetta dello Sport in which he asserted that the 24-year-old has to finally appreciate with the attention that will accompany him away from the game.

Ferguson left Rooney out of the United side that played Everton at Goodison Park in the week after the claims of him sleeping with a prostitute were published by the News of the World, saying he did not want to “subject him to all that nonsense.”

But he has now voiced his believe that Rooney must ensure he is free from off-field issues in order to concentrate on his football.

“The boy is starting to realise probably, finally, without any question, what kind of focus is on him as a human being,” said Ferguson.

“I don't think the boy can turn without a camera on him. But for a young person that is not what you want. You want to play and enjoy your football without that attention to you that can be quite exhausting.”

Rooney returned for the Champions League tie with Rangers last week and Sunday's victory over Liverpool, but failed to score in either game. On Sunday he is set to play his first match away from Old Trafford since the allegations, although Bolton's Reebok Stadium is unlikely to prove the most intimidating of venues.

But Ferguson also refuted suggestions that Rooney has struggled this season as a result of the continued scandal.

In the aftermath of a poor World Cup, the 24-year-old has scored just once, and that from the penalty spot against West Ham.

“I don't believe he has a confidence problem,” said Ferguson.

United's trip to Bolton on Sunday offers the prospect of closing the four-point gap on Chelsea, with the Premier League leaders facing their first real test of the campaign at Manchester City tomorrow.

Ferguson has been casting envious glances down the champions' fixture list that gifted them a comparatively gentle opening to the league campaign against West Bromwich, Wigan, Stoke, West Ham and Blackpool.

“I think Chelsea chose the calendar themselves — it's a quite amazing start of the season,” said Ferguson.

“But they finished last season scoring a lot of goals against weaker teams and have continued that way. You still have to beat those teams and Chelsea done that in quite a strong fashion — anyone who wins the league will have to finish above them.

“The previous winners always deserve respect because the Premier League is a difficult league.”

Ferguson has rarely shied away from putting his ‘noisy neighbours’, as he put it, in their place — as what Ferguson sees as the second biggest club in Manchester — but he does regard them as a potential threat to the big three of United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

He said: “City did not have the strongest start of the season, but you have to think that with the squad they have they will be there.

“I saw Liverpool game [which City won 3-0] and they are going to be a big challenge, the power they have.

“Roberto [Mancini] bought half a team in the summer and that will not be easy to bed down, but if they get continuity they will certainly be a threat. It is too early to make strong predictions. You have to give respect to Tottenham's progress in the last few years.

“The disappointment for me is Everton's start — I had put them down as one of the big favourites. Change of manager at Villa will take time for them to make an impact — Gerard [Houllier] has a learning curve to achieve.

“Arsenal, Chelsea and ourselves started reasonably well and will all be there at the end of the season but it remains to be seen in what order, and whether Tottenham can break into the top four [again]. But the top three are the strongest at the moment.”

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