Ferguson’s regard for Rooney on the wane as he falls well back in the order
Wayne Rooney dejected after a missed chance against Real Madrid at Old Trafford. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA
SOCCER:Diego Maradona undoubtedly meant well when, sitting in the same restaurant in the early hours of yesterday morning, he called over Wayne Rooney, unknotted his tie and offered it to the Manchester United player.
In ordinary circumstances, it would be easy to imagine it being framed and going straight on Rooney’s wall.
Except these, of course, were not ordinary circumstances. That gift from Buenos Aires will always, one suspects, have bittersweet memories for Rooney bearing in mind the subdued conversation on the table he was sharing with Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.
Rio Ferdinand would later inform his near-four million Twitter following he had been unable to get a minute’s sleep, too wound up by the adrenaline, grievances and the sense, perhaps, there may not be too many opportunities for a player of his age to reach another Champions League final.
Giggs had an engraved memento to mark the night of his 1,000th appearance but, knowing what we do of his competitive spirit, it is tempting to wonder whether it may find its way into the bottom of a drawer.
Giggs, at 39, could be forgiven for having the occasional moment of insecurity himself, even if he had taken the game to Real Madrid like a man immune to the natural processes of age.
As for Alex Ferguson, his assistant, Mike Phelan, probably used the wrong word when he explained the manager’s absence from all post-match interviews on being too “distraught” to talk.
Other colleagues reported it being an issue of fury – “angrier than I’ve ever seen him,” to quote one long-standing employee – rather than the image Phelan had portrayed.
The non-appearance was because Ferguson, quite simply, did not trust himself to maintain a sense of control when television cameras were there to record the moment.
What can be said with certainty is Cuneyt Cakir, a 36-year-old insurance agent from Istanbul, has gone straight into page one of Ferguson’s little black book of refereeing demonology, just above David Elleray, Martin Atkinson and the rest
Now it is the man whose past eight games in Turkey have brought 36 yellow cards and three reds and who left the Old Trafford pitch with Ferguson jabbing a finger in his direction from the touchline and spitting out vitriol.
Complaining to Uefa would be a futile exercise and, for their own dignity, it should be hoped United do not attempt to prolong the argument.
Their grievances have some foundation bearing in mind Nani, almost certainly, did not connect with Alvaro Arbeloa deliberately. Even so, being an accident did not remove the fact that one player’s studs connected with an opponent’s ribs.
One ex-pro, while sympathising with Nani, put forward a cogent argument directly after the match in United’s pressroom that the player should have known the potential risks and tried to shield the ball as it dropped rather than plucking it from the skies.