Uncertainty over Rooney casts further pall over Old Trafford

When Sir Alex Ferguson is asked what advice he would offer any young manager, he has a stock reply, the result of his vast experience that stretches back almost four decades.

“Don’t seek confrontation,” he says. “In this job, it will find you.”

So, instead of sitting back in the afterglow of what should have been satisfactory 70th birthday celebrations, with champions Manchester United at the league summit, Ferguson found himself fire-fighting once more.

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He was dousing the flames of Blackburn’s shock win at Old Trafford, fanned by a succession of ridiculous mistakes, of which David de Gea’s failure to collect a corner in the build-up to Grant Hanley’s winner, was the most notable. He was also fighting the inferno created by an alleged row with his star player.

Unless there is an unexpected change of policy, Ferguson will not change his stance that Rooney was left out of Saturday’s game completely due to injury.

But reports suggest Rooney was carpeted by Ferguson following a Boxing Day night out with – currently injured – Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson.

A central midfielder who has previously been entrusted in big European games, Gibson had completed the full 90 minutes against Wigan on Monday – Rooney made a 26-minute appearance from the bench – and there was no mention of an injury afterwards.

So, for the Irishman to find himself sat alongside Rooney in an executive box, while Park Ji-sung and Rafael were manning central midfield, with a barely fit Anderson the only outfield member of the bench with any notable experience at senior level, was an eyebrow raiser.

Having failed to secure their expected victory against the Premier League’s bottom club, United must respond at Newcastle on Wednesday.

To that end, he needs Rooney, and to a lesser extent, Gibson on Tyneside.

If they are recalled, as David Beckham was when he suffered Ferguson’s wrath in February 2000 and was axed for a trip to Leeds, any behind the scenes rumpus will be pushed to one side and all parties would be in a position to move on.

Yet Ferguson must also know he is now in a position where Rooney is of significantly more importance to him than Beckham was then.

Dimitar Berbatov scored twice as the champions came from 2-0 down to level but De Gea’s failure to cope with the high ball, which led to Rovers’ winner, was a throwback to his early suspect performances.