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 those damning allegations in 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.
The attitude has so often been rewarded in the past and, when his team run out at Goodison Park, 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 still did not return from their respective commitments to Ecuador and Mexico until yesterday.
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.
Ferdinand’s recovery from the knee injury he suffered in that 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 night.
“Rio wanted to play but his training performances are so good I didn’t see any point.
“He is in the squad with three games this week, it is good that he is back.”
Ferguson will doubtless have a plan in mind for a run of mouth-watering fixtures that moves on to Tuesday’s Champions League Battle of Britain with Rangers and then next Sunday’s visit of Liverpool to Old Trafford.
Everton boss David Moyes believes repeating last season’s victory over United could kickstart his side’s campaign. The Merseysiders began the new term with high expectations but have collected just one point from their opening three games.
Moyes is convinced his side should be challenging at the top end of the table and is looking for a lift today.
Moyes said: “It would give us all that belief that we can mix it with the top sides.
“We feel if we play well we can be a match for any side, and that includes Manchester United.
“We went into the season with high hopes, rightly so, we had played so well.
“At the end of last season we lost two out of 24 and we had a pretty good pre-season.
“I could come out and say we want to avoid relegation and let’s see where we go from there.
“I probably come out with that statement every year but I didn’t this year.
“I said we had a good team and probably our best squad.
“I stand by that but we have not shown it in results so far.”
Moyes is at a loss to explain his side’s disappointing start, which has included defeats at Blackburn and Aston Villa.
The Scot said: “We have tried changing the pre-season, we have tried changing all things to try to find a reason.
“I have heard people saying David Moyes has no excuses now he has no injuries but I never made any excuses last year.
“All we have done is try to do the best we can, do the right things.
“We have not started the season very well. It is something every year I try to address but I have not found a magic solution at this time.
“It has been frustrating but our football hasn’t been too bad. We have merited more but not taken it.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved