Alex Ferguson and Wayne Rooney did not always enjoy the best relationship during their time together at Manchester United, but the former manager has paid tribute to one of his biggest signings ahead of the captain’s testimonial.
United are set to recognise Rooney’s service to the club since signing for Ferguson in 2004 with a testimonial on Wednesday and the Scot has led the praise for the forward, saying he brought energy back into the team.
“I always think that great players can play in any era; Bobby Charlton would have been a great player today and Wayne Rooney would have been a great player back then,” Ferguson said.
“Wayne came in as a first-team player right away, even though he was only 18, and he’s gone on to play for Manchester United for 12 years, which is very difficult in the present day.”
And Ferguson revealed that he wanted to sign Rooney at least two years before he eventually did, failing twice to bring him away from then-Everton manager – and later United boss – David Moyes.
“We first tried to get Wayne when he was 14, tried again at 16 and we kept interest in him before finally agreeing to get him in 2004,” he said.
“It was fairly shortly after I’d got rid of the idea of retiring and changed my mind, and I had to rethink about how we were going to take the club forward.
“When you make the decision to retire, you stop thinking, but once I decided to stay I started thinking again and it was really centred around bringing energy back into the team by looking at young players. Of course there was Cristiano Ronaldo, then there was Rooney, and it was a fantastic period. The two of them were unbelievable.”
Rooney made a huge impact on debut, scoring a hat-trick in the Champions League against Fenerbahce, and despite some low points – including reportedly looking to leave the club in 2010 and then 2013 as his relationship with Ferguson deteriorated at times – he has gone on to win five Premier League titles, a Champions League and an FA Cup among six other trophies.