'It wouldn't be tougher if Dixie Dean was playing for us'

Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted Manchester United's trips to Everton are always "a nightmare" even without taking into account the Wayne Rooney factor.

After six days of his best player being plastered over the front pages because of damning allegations about his private life, it took Ferguson just 16 words to inform the world he would not be responsible for any further comment.

Words might have been exchanged behind closed doors but a feature of Ferguson's illustrious managerial career, which reaches its 700th Premier League game today, is an ability to protect his players from further suffering, whether self-inflicted or not.

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The attitude has so often been rewarded in the past and, when his team run out at Goodison Park today, Ferguson will hope Rooney responds in the appropriate manner.

"Let's put it to bed straightaway," said the United boss. "I am not discussing any of my players' personal lives.

"It is always a nightmare going there and it wouldn't matter whether it was Dixie Dean playing for us. It is a hard place to go to. The atmosphere is fantastic. But we have had to deal with it for many years and there is no problem with our record there."

Indeed, while, by his own admission, United were slaughtered in the corresponding fixture last year, Ferguson's team have lost just three times at Goodison in the entire Premier League era.

Their chances of success this time around have been increased by both Everton's poor form and the return of Ferguson's huge international contingent, including Rooney, 24 hours earlier than usual.

For that, United have the new international fixture calendar to thank, which, in the case of Tuesday matches, Ferguson is hugely appreciative.

"It is the best decision FIFA have made in my time here," he said. "I don't know why it has not been done before.

"It gives club managers a great boost and is not a problem for the international managers because they still have 10 days with their players."

Nevertheless, Antonio Valencia and Javier Hernandez did not return from their respective commitments to Ecuador and Mexico until Thursday evening.

Given the swift turnaround for a Saturday lunchtime fixture, both men could find themselves overlooked today, which just gives more credence to the belief Ferguson will select Rooney to play against his old club, on a ground which, for him, is now full of ill-feeling despite his boyhood devotion.

If he does play, Rooney is expected to be accompanied by Rio Ferdinand. His recovery from the knee injury he suffered in a freak World Cup training ground collision with Emile Heskey has been so swift and so successful, Ferguson opted not to let him play a reserve team game against Stockport on Thursday.

Ferguson has ruled out any chance of Ryan Giggs succeeding John Toshack as Wales boss. Toshack left following last week's defeat to Montenegro.

Giggs was an obvious choice among those who remember how well another former Manchester United player, Mark Hughes, did when he found himself in a similar situation.

However, it was always felt 36-year-old Giggs would prefer to concentrate on his playing career and Ferguson has confirmed that.

"I spoke to him. It will not happen," said Ferguson.