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Wayne Rooney was Sir Alex Ferguson’s golden boy… but there were fierce arguments and fallings out

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wayne rooney was sir alex fergusons golden boy but there were fierce arguments and fallings out

They are arguably the most successful player-manager combination the Premier League has ever seen – but Sir Alex Ferguson and Wayne Rooney‘s relationship stole as many negative headlines as positive ones.  

Ferguson helped Rooney win 12 major honours at Old Trafford, including one Champions League trophy and five Premier League triumphs, and the Scot was the key factor in turning the striker from a young Merseyside teenager into Manchester United and England’s all-time record goalscorer. 

Yet the egos of the most successful manager in Premier League history and the most prolific striker England has ever produced clashed on several occasions, with the relationship now branded as ‘awkward’ and ‘non-conversational’ by both sides.

Sportsmail takes a look at the history of Ferguson and Rooney’s relationship and how the core of Manchester United’s success was meddled with petty arguments and public fall-outs.  

Wayne Rooney (left) and Sir Alex Ferguson (right) fell out several times at Manchester United

Wayne Rooney (left) and Sir Alex Ferguson (right) fell out several times at Manchester United

Wayne Rooney (left) and Sir Alex Ferguson (right) fell out several times at Manchester United

The pair (both pictured) won 12 trophies at Old Trafford but are now on non-speaking terms

The pair (both pictured) won 12 trophies at Old Trafford but are now on non-speaking terms

The pair (both pictured) won 12 trophies at Old Trafford but are now on non-speaking terms

When Ferguson poached Rooney from Everton in 2004 for a then-club-record £30million fee, it was not simply a move where the biggest club in England signed the country’s Golden Boy from Euro 2004. Ferguson saw an outstanding profile and character in the 18-year-old.

As the Scot saw footballers begin to focus on sponsorship deals, fancy haircuts and supermodel girlfriends, Rooney was the exception to the trend. This was a teenager who put football as his priority, with Manchester United’s coaches having to drag him off the training pitch during his time at Old Trafford.

Ferguson reportedly saw a lot of himself in the young forward – but this was where the problems arose. Rooney often treated the Manchester United manager as his equal and was not afraid to complain about Ferguson’s policies to his face.

Ferguson (left) signed Rooney (right) from Everton for a club-record £30m back in 2004

Ferguson (left) signed Rooney (right) from Everton for a club-record £30m back in 2004

Ferguson (left) signed Rooney (right) from Everton for a club-record £30m back in 2004

This wasn’t necessary a personal issue between Rooney and Ferguson, it was just the striker’s character. 

This was the same plucky kid who played a prank of terrifying United captain Roy Keane ahead of his first away match for the club – by hiding the TV remote after changing channels from Keane’s beloved rugby league to the X Factor series. 

But his duels with Ferguson were always a black mark on a successful period for Manchester United. They were not just fierce, but regular. 

Former United defender Richie De Laet told The Athletic that Rooney would answer back to the Scot if there was a tactical policy he didn’t agree with at half-time. And Rooney recalls these battles happening during most matches.

The pair would often clash during United matches about tactical aspects of Rooney's game

The pair would often clash during United matches about tactical aspects of Rooney's game

The pair would often clash during United matches about tactical aspects of Rooney’s game

The ex-England striker told the Guardian earlier this year: ‘I always remember as a kid, every half-time arguing with him. Constantly. 

‘I remember thinking: “Why’s he keep having a go at me? There’s players far worse than what I’ve been.” But the older you get, you realise why he’s doing it. 

‘He would have a go at me for dribbling, which I very rarely [did].’ 

In his controversial autobiography, Ferguson added: ‘I admit I gave Wayne a few rollickings. He would rage in the dressing room when I picked him out for criticism. 

‘His eyes would burn as if he wanted to knock my lights out. The next day he would be apologetic. 

‘When the anger subsided he knew I was right — because I was always right, as I used to tease him.’ 

Ferguson would often tease Rooney behind closed doors which led to spiky disagreements

Ferguson would often tease Rooney behind closed doors which led to spiky disagreements

Ferguson would often tease Rooney behind closed doors which led to spiky disagreements

Ferguson’s Rooney ‘rollickings’ were not a personal attack against the England striker either, at least not in a negative way. 

The Scot saw the talent that Rooney possessed and did everything in his power to make the Manchester United forward reach his potential.

In return for this ‘teasing’ and constant criticism, Ferguson would put his body on the line for the striker when taking questions from the media during controversial episodes involving the United forward. 

The famous expletive-laden rant in defence of Rooney when he was facing a three-match ban by the FA for striking out against Bolton’s Tal Ben Haim was one of several examples. 

Yet this ‘goodwill’ from Ferguson did not change the course of the pair’s relationship and it wasn’t just on-the-pitch disagreements where Rooney would speak out against his manager. 

Ferguson would also protect Rooney wherever possible in press-conferences with the media

Ferguson would also protect Rooney wherever possible in press-conferences with the media

Ferguson would also protect Rooney wherever possible in press-conferences with the media

The striker felt obliged to wade in on United’s transfer plans, particularly when they were looking bleak.

In the summer of 2009, United let Cristiano Ronaldo go to Real Madrid for a world-record £80m, while attacking team-mate Carlos Tevez also jumped ship from Old Trafford to Manchester City. 

The club replaced the pair with youngsters Gabriel Obertan, Mame Biram Diouf, and while Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen came in as marquee signings, Rooney was unsure about the Red Devils’ ambition.

The following year saw United sign Javier Hernandez and Portuguese rookie Bebe. Young talents Chris Smalling and Danny Welbeck were given first-team minutes, but Rooney was still not impressed.

The striker told Sky Sports last year: ‘I was gutted when he (Ronaldo) left. I went in to see Alex Ferguson. 

Rooney criticised Ferguson's transfer policy after selling superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (right)

Rooney criticised Ferguson's transfer policy after selling superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (right)

Rooney criticised Ferguson’s transfer policy after selling superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (right)

‘I said to him, “What’s going on? We’ve sold Tevez, we’ve sold Ronaldo, who’s coming in?”

‘No disrespect, but we had bought Smalling not knowing whether (he was) good enough. If I was going to commit myself for another five years, I didn’t really want to be waiting to be part of Alex Ferguson building a team to get there in five years’ time.’

And Ferguson’s response? His autobiography said: ‘My reply was that it was none of his business. I told him it was his job to play and perform. 

‘My job was to pick the correct teams. And so far I had been getting it right.’ 

Rooney’s complaints came to a head in 2010, when the England striker handed in the first of his two transfer requests to Ferguson – citing a lack of ambition made by the club just a few weeks after the 2010-2011 summer transfer window shut. 

During his time at United, Rooney (left) handed in two transfer requests to United and Sir Alex

During his time at United, Rooney (left) handed in two transfer requests to United and Sir Alex

During his time at United, Rooney (left) handed in two transfer requests to United and Sir Alex

Ferguson convinced the striker to stay and United were league champions that season and also made the Champions League final, but the cracks that had begun in the privacy of the United dressing room had now become public.

The fractured relationship between player and manager stayed right up until Ferguson’s retirement. 

The Scottish manager omitted Rooney from his final home league game in management and dropped the bombshell after the game that the England striker had handed another transfer request. 

Rooney confirmed that the first plea-to-leave was made in the frustration of being in bad form after a poor World Cup with England. The second, according to The Athletic, was down to the rise of Robin Van Persie as United’s ‘golden boy’ and Rooney being out of the main spotlight.  

Ahead of Ferguson's retirement (right) in 2013, Rooney handed in a second transfer request

Ahead of Ferguson's retirement (right) in 2013, Rooney handed in a second transfer request

Ahead of Ferguson’s retirement (right) in 2013, Rooney handed in a second transfer request

Ferguson’s predecessor David Moyes did just enough to keep Rooney at Old Trafford, implying that the striker’s complaints were down to Ferguson’s handling of him and not regarding anything else to do with Manchester United.

The retirement brought an end to his and Rooney’s professional relationship, but the ill-feeling still exists in certain parts. Even with both Rooney and Ferguson no longer anchoring the United dressing room, there is still animosity between them. 

In his Sunday Times column this week, Rooney criticised Ferguson’s tactics during the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals, where the Red Devils were humbled twice against Pep Guardiola’s superteam.

He’s not the only one to make this claim, with Rio Ferdinand also criticising his old boss for his ‘arrogant’ approach against the Spanish giants in the European finals.

But Rooney’s complaints show the fire of resentment between the celebrated player and coach still remains, meaning their awkward relationship is still in tact to this day. 

Today, Rooney still criticises Ferguson about United's tactics in two Champions League finals

Today, Rooney still criticises Ferguson about United's tactics in two Champions League finals

Today, Rooney still criticises Ferguson about United’s tactics in two Champions League finals 

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English football divided over whether to ‘take a knee’ before matches

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english football divided over whether to take a knee before matches

English football is divided over whether it is still relevant to ‘take a knee’ before matches.

What began during Project Restart as a unanimous gesture of support for the anti-racism movement after the shocking death of George Floyd in America in May, is now causing confusion for many players.

Several clubs have decided that it will lose significance if continued indefinitely and on Saturday in 16 out of 37 matches in the top four divisions, players did not kneel before kick-off. 

There has been a split over whether clubs should continue to take a knee before matches start

There has been a split over whether clubs should continue to take a knee before matches start

There has been a split over whether clubs should continue to take a knee before matches start

In 6 out of 37 matches in the top four divisions on Saturday players did not kneel beforehand

In 6 out of 37 matches in the top four divisions on Saturday players did not kneel beforehand

In 6 out of 37 matches in the top four divisions on Saturday players did not kneel beforehand

It went ahead in all four Premier League matches and at every game in the Championship except Norwich v Preston. But the picture was less clear in League One and League Two where the majority did not take a knee. Out of 23 matches in the lower two leagues players did not take the knee in 15 of them.

QPR have reiterated their commitment to fighting racism and social injustice after their players and Coventry’s declined to take the knee, as has been habitual in televised games, before Friday night’s Championship clash on Sky TV.

Manager Mark Warburton and chief executive Lee Hoos have both spoken in support of player protests to highlight racial inequality.

But they insist that taking the knee is an issue for players and that the club should be judged their record rather than the gesture itself. Both teams agreed with the referee that they weren’t going to take the knee before the game and Warburton said: ‘We have absolute respect for such an important cause and all of our players, to a man and staff, followed the lead [last season] and took the knee. 

‘Some teams have been saying at the end of lockdown, that we’ve done it now. So we’re saying there should be guidance from the EFL.

Mark Warburton defended his QPR team who were one of several teams that did not kneel

Mark Warburton defended his QPR team who were one of several teams that did not kneel

Mark Warburton defended his QPR team who were one of several teams that did not kneel

‘When I came off the pitch last night and was made aware that some were saying QPR’s behaviour might have been inappropriate, I was appalled.

‘We had the first game against Nottingham Forest last week and both clubs said: ‘We’ve done it. We’re full of respect for the cause but we don’t want it to become a token gesture.’ Our players are saying: ‘Are we doing it every game?’

‘As in the clap for carers, it tends to lose its power over time. But when clap for carers stopped, there’s no less respect for carers.

‘We abhor all forms of discrimination and I don’t think there’s a more-diverse club in football. It’s important that we’re seen to have BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] representation, given the work we do in our community, which is a very diverse. Any suggestion that the club has acted inappropriately should be met with a powerful response on our part.’

Hoos was adamant that the stance of the players was not an endorsement of those seeking to belittle taking the knee or the message behind Black Lives Matter. He said: ‘People who say ‘All Lives Matter’ just don’t get it and to suggest that QPR support that kind of thinking that would be perverse.’

After their match with Bournemouth on Saturday, Middlesbrough’s assistant Kevin Blackwell said: ‘Myself and people from Bournemouth spoke about it and we decided we would both take a knee.

‘We need guidance from the Football League about this. There’s a point now where we have got to decide ‘is this relevant? Are people getting the meaning across?’ I would like to see people now do things about it rather than sit down and talk about it. We need actions taken for the right reasons.’

Sheffield Wednesday and Watford took the knee at Hillsborough and Owls boss Garry Monk said: ‘We want to keep awareness of it in the spotlight and not let it fade away.’ Brentford’s Thomas Frank added: ‘I didn’t know some teams didn’t do it, I think it’s a good cause and we all should support it.’

Sanjay Bhandari, the chairman of Kick It Out, insisted that they wanted action rather than a debate about gestures.

‘We encourage the players to continue to protest in whatever form they feel comfortable and to do so free of the risk of sanction, whether that protest is taking a knee, wearing a badge or any other form,’ he said.

‘The form of protest and who protests is not the issue and should not detract from the real issue. The real issue is meaningful action to create sustainable change. We need to focus on the targets for greater representation in football leadership and coaching; and on mobilising everyone to stand against the rise in hate, especially online.’

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Harry Kane will be ecstatic that Gareth Bale is coming to share the goalscoring burden

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harry kane will be ecstatic that gareth bale is coming to share the goalscoring burden

Harry Kane has shouldered the responsibility for so long, I think he’ll be ecstatic Gareth Bale is coming in to share the burden.

In terms of achievement, they aren’t equals. Bale has four Champions League titles.

But I don’t think it’ll bother Kane. Every player has an ego but he will also be selfishly thinking with Bale around, Spurs have a better chance of delivering a trophy and competing for a top-four place.

Harry Kane will be ecstatic that Tottenham have signed former star Gareth Bale on loan

Harry Kane will be ecstatic that Tottenham have signed former star Gareth Bale on loan

Harry Kane will be ecstatic that Tottenham have signed former star Gareth Bale on loan

The 31-year-old has joined from Real Madrid for the season and his arrival has been welcomed

The 31-year-old has joined from Real Madrid for the season and his arrival has been welcomed

The 31-year-old has joined from Real Madrid for the season and his arrival has been welcomed

Most players like to look around the dressing room and feel reassured they’ve got top people around them.

I had that with Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen at Liverpool, and Kane will benefit from seeing Bale alongside him. Instead of feeling that unless he scores, Spurs may not win, I expect Kane’s level to rise having a world-class player next to him.

People talk about Bale at Real, but I think his success with Wales is an equally good indicator. He’ll be able to knuckle down and play whichever way Jose Mourinho wants.

Kane has had to shoulder the attacking burden for Spurs since breaking into the team in 2014

Kane has had to shoulder the attacking burden for Spurs since breaking into the team in 2014

Kane has had to shoulder the attacking burden for Spurs since breaking into the team in 2014

Real usually dominate the ball and Bale doesn’t have to think too much about defensive duties. But on the international stage, he was ready to lead and disciplined enough to fit into a team pattern when the opposition might be better.

He’s only 31 and been lightly used for 18 months so I don’t think he should be found physically wanting whether Mourinho wants his forwards to press, play counter-attack or play between the lines.

I think Bale’s most effective position will be wide on the right of a 4-3-3 but if Mourinho wants to go 4-2-3-1, he could do a job as No 10.

Kane and the rest will find a Galactico happy to be one of the team. It’s a terrific signing.

With Bale in the side, Kane will be confident Spurs can win major silverware this season

With Bale in the side, Kane will be confident Spurs can win major silverware this season

With Bale in the side, Kane will be confident Spurs can win major silverware this season

Thiago – the right signing at the right price for Liverpool 

There is no doubt in my mind Thiago Alcantara is coming to Liverpool as a first XI player — I doubt very much he’s had any conversations with Jurgen Klopp about sitting on the bench this season.

He has great feet, passes well, has super awareness and can play in any of the midfield positions. I don’t see any risk at under £30million because he only had a year left on his Bayern contract.

I do think Gini Wijnaldum’s departure has an air of inevitability about it now because Liverpool will have seven or eight players challenging for three positions, which means too many unhappy faces for the balance of the squad.

There aren't many ways Klopp could have made Liverpool better but Thiago certainly will

There aren't many ways Klopp could have made Liverpool better but Thiago certainly will

There aren’t many ways Klopp could have made Liverpool better but Thiago certainly will

There aren’t many ways Klopp could made this Liverpool even better but I think Thiago will. He’s fit enough to do the work required of Liverpool’s midfield and has that ability to play progressive passes.

He can do a job where Fabinho played last season or if Fabinho is in the team, he can operate higher up the pitch.

Liverpool’s recruitment has been outstanding, finding hungry players itching to reach the top. But now they’re at the summit, I can see the sense in bringing in ready-made, particularly when they are bargains. 

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IT’S MELTDOWN – Government warned that fans need to return or financial consequences will be severe

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its meltdown government warned that fans need to return or financial consequences will be severe

The Government have been warned that the delay in allowing fans back into stadiums is a ‘nightmare’ which risks jeopardising the entire English football pyramid because of the impending financial catastrophe.

Test events, now limited to 1,000 fans due to new Government restrictions, took place at seven EFL games on Saturday including Championship clubs Norwich and Middlesbrough.

But West Ham’s Karren Brady says they could host 20,000 at the London Stadium safely and experts warn that without a change in Government thinking a sporting financial meltdown is imminent.

The Government have been warned that supporters need to return to stadiums soon

The Government have been warned that supporters need to return to stadiums soon

The Government have been warned that supporters need to return to stadiums soon

Tuesday’s cabinet meeting is seen as crucial in determining whether the Government will go ahead with the planned October 1 date for readmission of some fans, though it looks increasingly likely the best the Premier League can hope for is test events of about 2,500 fans.

But EFL executives are warning they cannot live on handouts and tax deferrals for ever.

Lee Hoos, chief executive at Championship club QPR, says that it cost clubs tens of thousands to put on games at present, which is unsustainable.

QPR chief executive Lee Hoos says clubs are having to pay tens of thousands to stage games

QPR chief executive Lee Hoos says clubs are having to pay tens of thousands to stage games

QPR chief executive Lee Hoos says clubs are having to pay tens of thousands to stage games

Hoos said: ‘League One and Two are already talking about how long clubs can continue to put on games and lose money. The most amazing thing is how long it took for Wigan to go into administration.

‘If clubs get to a point where they have nothing coming through the gates and decide to terminate the season, that could be the end of the English football pyramid as we know it.

‘We need to have some revenue coming in. We’re not an industry that receives a Government bailout. We need the opportunity to stand on our own two feet.

‘Safety has to be the No1 priority. But there’s been a considerable amount of work with Sports Ground Safety Authority and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in terms of how we can do this safely. We have plans submitted with the local council to say this is how we could get people in. We’re just waiting for the OK.’

Experts warn that without a change in Government thinking a sporting financial meltdown is imminent

Experts warn that without a change in Government thinking a sporting financial meltdown is imminent

Experts warn that without a change in Government thinking a sporting financial meltdown is imminent

Test events of 1,000 fans took place at Norwich, Middlesbrough, Charlton, Blackpool, Shrewsbury, Forest Green Rovers and Carlisle on Saturday but the Premier League suspended their test events, saying 1,000 fans weren’t a large enough cohort to provide meaningful data.

Brady, who wrote in her newspaper column that Premier League clubs were collectively losing £80million a month in gate receipts, said: ‘It is becoming increasingly difficult to see what the delay in bringing back spectators to football is all about — except optics,’ she wrote. 

West Ham executive vice-chairman Karren Brady is eager for supporters to be let back in

West Ham executive vice-chairman Karren Brady is eager for supporters to be let back in

West Ham executive vice-chairman Karren Brady is eager for supporters to be let back in

‘A Premier League football stadium is the safest place you can be. Safer than your own living room. Our highly supervised environment means supporters are safer in there than if they were mixing informally in their own homes.’

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is arguing the cause of the sports industry in cabinet but with further national restrictions now looking imminent to add to the rule of six, it remains to be seen whether a more nuanced message, that stadiums are safe, and the scale of the imminent financial disaster will cut through to the Prime Minister.

Dortmund show how it’s done with 10,000 crowd

By Lukas Rott

You could hear the excitement in Norbert Dickel’s voice. The Borussia Dortmund legend is now the announcer at Signal Iduna Park.

Giovanni Reyna had just opened the scoring in front of the 9,300 supporters. Dickel took the mike and, before declaring the scorer’s name, said: ‘I have waited so long to do this.’

We all have. Two Dortmund fans outside the stadium held a sign before the game which read: ‘Covid-19 is dying. BVB will never die’. You could see how much the supporters loved to be back.

10,000 fans were in attendance for Borussia Dortmund's game v Borussia Monchengladbach

10,000 fans were in attendance for Borussia Dortmund's game v Borussia Monchengladbach

10,000 fans were in attendance for Borussia Dortmund’s game v Borussia Monchengladbach

It was a strange atmosphere. There were 2,000 fans in the yellow wall instead of the usual 25,000. But they did their best to bring as much atmosphere as they could. They sang their songs as loud as they could. Huge cheers greeted the teams coming out. More when the Dortmund names were announced. Boos met the Gladbach players.

It was still so different. Fans on one side of the stadium could not hear the ones on the other so they sang their own songs. And with no away fans they could sing about Monchengladbach without fear of any reply.

By the end, with Dortmund three up, the Mexican wave had begun, even with a few gaps.

The celebrations felt more emotional. The hugs lasted longer. Having the fans back surely played a part in that. Goals were not celebrated quite so intensely when the stands were empty.

With fans at the ground, the celebrations for Dortmund's goals felt much more emotional

With fans at the ground, the celebrations for Dortmund's goals felt much more emotional

With fans at the ground, the celebrations for Dortmund’s goals felt much more emotional

Fans were excited but they respected the situation. They maintained their distance, even when goals went in. They stood in their own groups, sharing a look with the next nearest set of supporters but nothing more. After the final whistle, they were told to remain in their seats.

Stewards made sure all the conditions were met. They checked people were sanitising their hands and approached the few people who did not stay disciplined. Masks had to be worn when moving around the stadium and when queuing, even outside the ground. Fans had timetables for getting into the ground, they brought their IDs. Toilets used a one-way system.

People realise that the Covid situation changes daily. Cases are going up so everyone is just enjoying the moment. Everyone felt happy to be back.

Everyone felt safe.

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