Manchester United’s increased reliance on Wayne Rooney after Michael Owen was ruled out for the season has led to Sir Alex Ferguson clashing with the Premier League’s leading scorer.
Ferguson, reeling from the news that Owen needs an operation, was incensed that Rooney defied him by not pulling out of England’s midweek defeat of Egypt and has made his feelings plain to the player, accusing him of being irresponsible and jeopardising United’s chances of silverware.
Ferguson had been led to believe Rooney would withdraw because of a knee injury that has troubled him for several weeks.
Instead, the forward played 86 minutes of the 3-1 win, whereas Chelsea’s Frank Lampard was replaced at half-time.
Rooney’s knee has swollen, making him doubtful for United’s game at Wolverhampton Wanderers tomorrow, and it is a measure of Ferguson’s irritation that he abandoned his usual policy of never criticising players in public.
“I was disappointed with Wayne,” Ferguson said. “He didn’t come off, I couldn’t believe it, and now he’s a doubt. We’re going to have to assess him because he played virtually the full game for England, which I am disappointed about.
Playing at Wembley on that kind of pitch for almost an hour (in the Carling Cup final) on Sunday, and then almost the full 90 minutes on Wednesday, it’s far too much. Wayne is exhausted.”
A long-term critic of international friendlies, Ferguson went on to describe the pitch as “a ploughed field” and blamed the surface for Owen suffering the injury that has brought his season to a juddering halt.