Nobody can ever accuse Sir Alex Ferguson of sitting on the fence about anything so it was no surprise to hear him predict that Wayne Rooney will be one of the biggest stars of the next World Cup. The Manchester United manager also feels that England may have had it too easy in qualifying for the 2010 Finals and that the only regret he has about showing Diego Forlan the Old Trafford door in 2004 was that he sold him too cheaply.
In an exclusive interview with Ron Atkinson and Terry Christian on SunTalk the Old Trafford boss is convinced that his star striker was weighed down by unrealistic expectations. He confessed that he was surprised by England’s poor performance but insisted his 24 year old superstar will bounce back and the time to judge him will be in the 2014 Brazil World Cup.
ON WAYNE ROONEY – “There was talk of him being the player of the tournament. The prelude to the whole thing was that he was going to be the star. He was going to outshine Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, all of them. That’s where the level of expectation comes into it. But he’s not got great experience of a World Cup really. You wait, in four years’ time you’ll see a different player.”
ON ENGLAND’S POOR WORLD CUP – “It’s an imponderable as to why these players can’t get better form. I watched the games too and I was baffled by what I saw but I wasn’t totally surprised. I think the expectation and they’d been away for a long time, there were a lot of factors. But don’t forget none of the English team have any experience of playing in the semi finals. There was a big expectation. They qualified from a group which you’d have to say was a million to one that they wouldn’t qualify.”
“So it was an easy passage into the finals. You look at Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland. They all had tough groups against Germany, France and Holland. Maybe it would have been better if England had been in a tougher group, they’d have earned the right to be one of the favourites and it would have helped that they’d played against good teams before they got there. That expectation was huge on them. I feel for them because it was a burden.”
ON A MID SEASON BREAK – “On the winter break, it’s hard to explain the whole panorama of that. The likes of Kuyt and the Spanish players are playing in the Premier League. But all the England team are playing in it, so they’re all affected, whereas Spain have one or two, Holland have one or two.
ON TRAINING CAMPS – “I was in charge of Scotland at the World Cup in 1986 and it’s a long time for the kind of players we have today. We made sure it was very light hearted, had a lot of games and competitions, we mixed up the games, we mixed up the teams. We were trying to fill in that time gap by making sure the players were utilised and not wasting a lot of time.”
ON DIEGO FORLAN – “I sent him a text the other day. He’s been fantastic and we’re all proud of him. There was never a problem with him at Old Trafford, it was just the combination of him and Van Nistelrooy did not work. The boy had other issues, his sister’s health in Spain. He always wanted to get to Spain at some point. The only criticism of ourselves was that we sold him too cheaply. He could have been a hero. He was a great lad, a magnificent professional, spoke five languages and was a great tennis player.”
Do you agree with Ferguson’s comments?