I never quite know when to believe Sir Alex Ferguson.
Let’s face it, he’s not averse to misleading reporters. In the build-up to the Everton game, every indication from the Manchester United manager pointed to Rio Ferdinand returning from injury and playing at Goodison Park — he didn’t.
So I was, to say the least, surprised that Ferguson subsequently, before kick-off, was quite open about why Rooney didn’t figure against his old club, saying he didn’t want to see the player suffer the abuse that he gets there (isn’t that inciting ALL opposing fans to abuse any player they think they might upset?). He could easily have invented a minor injury (NOT a groin strain).
Then Michael Phelan, United’s regular ‘stand-in spokesman’ for BBC interviews, led you to think something quite different. It’s no matter really. The point is that the signals were confusing.
Was Rooney being protected? Was he in the wrong mental state to play the game? Or had he been dropped as a way of being taught a lesson? None of us really knows the truth. But I can’t think of any good reason why he shouldn’t figure in the Champions League.
Saturday’s been and gone and, actually, having no distractions allowed everyone to enjoy the best game seen in the Premier League so far this season. After the international interruptions it was great to get back to solid business.
Both teams deserved praise. I saw Everton at Villa the other Sunday and it was ridiculous that they left the Midlands without at least a point.
Two points from four games doesn’t bode well but all Everton lack currently is a cutting edge. They’ll find it.
What is indisputable is the remarkable team spirit that pertains at Goodison Park. They simply don’t give up.
To pull two goals back in stoppage time against a team such as United speaks volumes. However, it also tells us something about Ferguson’s team.
It seemed a rare lapse in concentration to miss a penalty and then concede a late equaliser at Fulham. Fergie was furious. He must have been apoplectic on Merseyside.
At 3-1, United would not have been flattered by another three or four goals advantage.
They were that superior. I’d heard rave reports about the start to the season made by Paul Scholes.
Now I saw the evidence with my own eyes. The player was absolutely right to avoid an international return.
Used sparingly, I can see Fergie coaxing another year or two of brilliance from the ginger one — likewise with Ryan Giggs. Why would he or his club remotely contemplate a switch to become manager of Wales?
So, given that so much looks so good about United at the moment, they can only hope the dropping of four points from two away games, points that should never have been conceded, won’t prove costly over the course of the campaign.
Tonight, should prove rather easier. Forget the ‘Battle of Britain’ nonsense. I can’t honestly see Rangers providing much of a contest.