• Premier League

Rooney admits Ferguson blow

ESPN staff
March 21, 2014
Coping without Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata

Wayne Rooney admits Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement has made life difficult for Manchester United this season.

The club may have overturned a 2-0 first leg deficit against Olympiakos with a 3-0 win at Old Trafford on Wednesday to book their place in the Champions League quarter-finals, but it was a rare moment of respite in an otherwise dismal first season under David Moyes.

United, under Ferguson's successor, have performed poorly in every competition, falling out of the running for any major prizes before staging their European recovery against the unfancied Greek side.

United players held inquest

Wayne Rooney admitted defeat by Liverpool was "devastating". © PA Photos
  • Manchester United's embattled squad held an inquest into how they were humbled by Liverpool last Sunday.
  • The 3-0 defeat was described as "devastating" and a nightmare" by striker Wayne Rooney, who started his career at Everton, but they bounced back to beat Olympiakos on Wednesday and stay in the Champions League.
  • Rooney said: "All the players admit Sunday was a devastating result. We had to stand up and show ourselves because that was not good enough.
  • "I'm not going to confirm details of what happened but obviously we talk. We knew as a team what went wrong on Sunday, we didn't need anyone to tell us."

"It was always going to be tough when Alex left," Rooney said.

"It was obviously a massive change so we knew it was going to be tough, but we didn't expect it to be as tough as it has been.

"But we have to put that right. We have to keep working, keep believing in ourselves and, hopefully, it'll get better."

Rooney's reflections on the changing face of United are significant in that he has been at loggerheads with Ferguson over the last year.

Ferguson signed the striker for £25.6 million in 2004 but their relationship broke down in the latter months of the former United manager's Old Trafford tenure.

Rooney struggled for form last season and was dropped for United's crunch second-leg Champions League last-16 defeat against Real Madrid.

He did not enjoy being left out and speculation put them at odds behind the scenes, with Ferguson eventually going public to claim Rooney handed in a transfer request in April.

The player has always denied that but there was a stand-off with the club over the summer following Ferguson's retirement in May, as Rooney appeared set on a move to Chelsea.

The pair have clashed again since after Ferguson questioned Rooney's fitness in his autobiography and, before a long charm offensive from Moyes and new five-year, £300,000-a-week contract was signed last month, the England goalscorer looked destined to leave.

Rooney has become a leader again at United under Moyes and Wednesday's result provided some relief following their comprehensive 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool on Sunday.

Team-mate and player coach Ryan Giggs said the win gave United confidence they would not suffer the same decline as the once-dominant Liverpool team of the 1990s.

Manager Moyes insisted afterwards his team could win the competition, while Rooney claimed it was something to build on.

"If it's not going right, some games you can have bad games, but you still need to put that effort in," Rooney said. "It's massively important to me, to the team and the manager.

"Sometimes it may not look like that but we are giving everything, we are trying. Sometimes it doesn't happen, but we are working hard to get better and to try to climb the table."

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