BBC BLOGS - Phil McNulty
« Previous | Main | Next »

Ferguson's nightmare on Gwladys Street

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 18:44 UK time, Saturday, 11 September 2010

Goodison Park

Sir Alex Ferguson predicted "a nightmare" for Manchester United at Goodison Park - and yet for so long it was all going like a dream.

Ferguson was referring to the atmosphere inside one of England's great old football arenas rather than United's record at Everton, which has been outstanding in recent years.

And it was the "welcome" Ferguson feared Wayne Rooney would receive from the fans who once adored him after allegations about his private life that persuaded the Scot to leave him out of United's squad.

The debate looked little more than a sideshow as Goodison Park's sombre-voiced announcer confirmed that there would be an additional three minutes with United leading 3-1 and in control. Then came Ferguson's nightmare in front of Gwladys Street.

Amid frenzied scenes, United's advantage evaporated in seconds as Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta struck in swift succession to earn Everton a point that seemed light years away when the board was hoisted for added time.

Ferguson wore the expression of a man who been punched firmly on the nose, and in football terms that was the blow Everton had delivered in those closing seconds.

And, from nowhere, Ferguson's decision to spare Rooney Goodison Park's hostility came into sharp relief. Should he have trusted his finest player, however fragile his temperament can be, to tough it out on the basis he will have to face fans sometime and he might as well get on with it?

My view is that Ferguson should have played Rooney simply because of his quality, and it almost hinted at weakness (not something that can usually be associated with anyone or anything at Old Trafford) to exclude him.

Did his absence cost United the win? No.

Ferguson's side played some wonderful attacking football, Dimitar Berbatov in particular, and it was the efforts of Everton keeper Tim Howard rather the missing influence of Rooney that gave David Moyes' side the chance to launch that late surge.

It was the basic principle of leaving Rooney, a player of such importance, on the sidelines because of the abuse he may get from opposing supporters that is open to question. Presumably his next Premier League game will be against Liverpool next Sunday, and while that is at Old Trafford it is unlikely the travelling supporters will be in sympathetic mood.

Rooney showed with his performance for England in Switzerland that he has the ability to close out personal problems when it comes to performing in the pitch - although he has struggled to excel against his former club at Goodison Park.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson watches his side at Goodison Park

Sir Alex Ferguson watches his side's draw at Goodison Park (Photo: AP)

Fabio Capello played Rooney in Basle on purely footballing grounds after checking his state of mind and was rewarded. Ferguson, unless Rooney's mental fitness to figure has altered dramatically since Tuesday, would have been better served by playing him.

Of course Goodison Park would have revelled and added to his discomfort, as would any opposing supporters in the current climate surrounding Rooney, but Ferguson's decision was effectively a public admission that he could not cope in those surroundings.

Ferguson will, however, have been more concerned by how United, as they did at Fulham, squandered two points at the end of a thrilling game that did great credit to both sides.

Everton took the lead through Steven Pienaar, who demonstrated with every contribution why Moyes would not sell him despite the fear he could leave on a free transfer at the end of this season after failing to agree a contract, but United responded in style.

Goals from Darren Fletcher and Nemanja Vidic put them in front, while the third from Berbatov was a thing of genuine footballing beauty. Paul Scholes' precise pass took out Sylvain Distin, but Berbatov made a difficult task look simplicity itself with instant control and a perfect finish.

Berbatov was outstanding throughout, showing balance, control and technique of the highest class. He looked like a man who has come fully to terms with being a Manchester United player.

But the frailty that saw two points go west at Craven Cottage reared its head again, and with Chelsea putting opponents away with ruthless efficiency, these are slips that could count.

For Everton, Moyes will see this late recovery as a catalyst for a belated start to their season. There was much to admire from Everton here, although so much attractive approach play was undermined by sloppy defending early in the second half.

If Moyes can produce a cutting edge from somewhere, and Yakubu produced a bustling and impressive cameo, the raw material is in place for a top six challenge.

In a game that was pure entertainment from first to last, there was even controversy in the final seconds when Moyes was infuriated by referee Martin Atkinson's decision to call time as Everton flooded forward in search of a fourth goal and Phil Jagielka was through on Edwin van der Sar.

He raced on to the pitch to remonstrate with Atkinson and continued his complaints later, but Moyes was also elated with Everton's performance, marked by a mixture of neat passing and persistence.

Expectations are raised at Everton this season, elevated by wins against Chelsea and United at Goodison Park last season, and if Moyes can find a regular supply of goals they can be fulfilled.

Ferguson's problems lie at the back rather than in attack on this evidence - the return of Rooney will add to United's quality and reduce the risk of the nightmare that visited Ferguson in those closing moments.

You can follow me at and join me on Facebook.


Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    I don't think Rooney was that good against Switzerland. And Fergie knows his players better than anyone. No doubt the Sunday Supplement boys will be discussing it tomorrow morning.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Everton were lucky. End of.

  • Comment number 4.

    Yes from a footballing perspective. He was able to play during the week, although the goals were at least spread around the team today, so in retropect it was okay for him to miss this one and sort himself out. Family comes first and all that!

  • Comment number 5.

    Are you to scared to say the SAF was arrogant in leaving Rooney out?

  • Comment number 6.

    Some good points raised there. Why would any set of fans treat Rooney differently?

  • Comment number 7.

    Leaving Rooney out was a decision that could well come back to haunt fergie. Twice we have thrown away 2 points, and it's so early in the season. However, fergusons track record shows that setbacks won't throw united off course and im confident we'll go on to win the premier league this year. Fingers crossed ay.

  • Comment number 8.

    With United going into injury time two goals ahead, the problems seem to lie in defence, and not with the absence of Rooney.

    Rooney is out of the squad so as to resolve a much documented personal problem, not because he would bottle/implode in this fixture.

    The only reason journalists wanted him to play is so there is more fuel to fire a story that most decent people of this country are not really that interested in.

  • Comment number 9.

    I read this article's title on the main page and thought "Oh no, Phil, not you too!" - Henry Winter of The Telegraph was praising United all through their game, until they got pegged back to 3-3, at which point he suggested that they missed Rooney. He's been rightly blasted for it on Twitter.

    But then I actually got reading, and it seems you've been far more sensible:

    Did his absence cost United the win? No.

    Thank goodness.

  • Comment number 10.

    I don't think this has anything to do with Rooney! Rooney played when we drew with Fulham - the problem is with us not taking our chances. And in football, it's goals that win games! Unfortunately for United, complacency was what killed us today!

  • Comment number 11.

    Hilarious, great to watch - apart from the 'Fergie time' obviously. Man U are clearly on the decline and have no cash to buy quality.

  • Comment number 12.

    Wane(Wayne) Rooney, a costly joke.

  • Comment number 13.

    Gary Neville is past it - he needs to be replaced asap. Evra had an off day as well.

    Both Everton's last minute goals were from Cahill headers, which 9/10 would have been won by a United defender. 2 errors cost us the game.

  • Comment number 14.

    some lazy moderators u have BBC....

  • Comment number 15.

    I am surprised to read that the game was a graet one or that MANU played that well. Everton dominated and deserved to at least tie if not win. Ferguson should ponder his persistance at starting players such as Oshea, Giggs and neville when he has wonderful talented youth in the shape of Rafael, Gibson, Hernandez... ManU's biggest problem fro the last 3 years has been its shaky central defense. Except Vidic, I don't see how a player like Evans can earn a spot at a club like Manu. he has never won a ball in an aerial battle. His can't use his head. I believe that ferguson likes players with no character or players who may exhibit any hot headedness that is why you will alway see Oshea, Evans, Fletcher and the likes. It's a shame for all ManU fans.
    If they continue playing like they did today, they will stand no chance of wining the league or anything for thjat matter this year.
    There is so much young talent in the team and especially in midfield and attaue but ferguson insists on playing Oshea, Neville, Giggs and for that matter even evra who is a shadow of his former self.
    Give the brazilian twins, Hernandez ad Gibson a chance by giving them full games instead of a few minutes here and there. And by some really good young central defender to partner with Vidic and send Evans where he blongs: some obscure team in a third division.

  • Comment number 16.

    So Rooney should have played because of his "quality"? Really? And how do you know he would have done any better than the team put out? There is a better chance he'd have done worse, had a total mare, or that he'd have done somthing stupid and got himself sent off!

    But oh no, Phil knows best! Which is why he's won the PL trophy every year since the start of the PL!

    Oh now lets link this back to your postings about England.

    Rio, Terry and Lampard shouldn't walk straight back into the England team. Why not? Don't they have "quality" too? You are consistant only in your inconsistancy Phil.

    And I'm pretty sure you allready had an article written about how Rooney crumbled under the pressure or some such. You seem dissapointed not to be able to print it! Don't worry I'm sure if you change the date you can role it out at some point this season!

    Finally credit to Everton, they did what Utd have done so often in the past and stuck with it too the end. You really can't ask for more from your players than that. It's just a pitty you have to keep flogging your best ones!

  • Comment number 17.

    When United didn't win the league last season, I looked back at early slip-ups such as against Burnley and Sunderland as where the title was lost. This draw today feels very similar - if we don't win the title this is the game which lost it. Two pathetic points dropped from a seemingly unassailable lead.

  • Comment number 18.

    Playing Rooney or not has nothing to do with the outcome of that match please! Rooney is a striker not a defender, and the match was lost by the defenders. The Strikers on show did their job by putting 3 past a-not-too-bad Everton side. With 90 minutes on the clock and leading 3-1, Rooney issue is absolutely a non-issue. Period!

  • Comment number 19.

    Rooney answered his critics with a goal on Tuesday. Leaving him out today makes it look as though he's being punished for the newspaper stories about his private life. What Rooney most wants to do in life is to play football.

  • Comment number 20.

    United scored 3 goals without him and if it wasn't for Tim Howard playing a blinder would've been 5-1 up. The attacking part of the side was spot on today.

    That's still no excuse as even with a 2 goal cushion with 3 minutes to play you'd expect any side with ambitions to win the league to see it out. Schoolboy defending cost us 2 points today not Rooney's exclusion.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Not sure why there is a blog on this game Phil, just seems you are resorting to tabloid journalism to make a story from nothing. Jags didn't hear the whistle and played on and missed, so that's a non-starter straight away. Ferguson got his selections and tactics right, you can't blame him for his players complacency. Has to be said, a great game for all the right reasons with both teams entertaining.

    Perhaps instead next time you should just do a review of all games from the weekend rather then just one game or are you hoping to do another blog on Liverpool after their game.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think SAF knows Rooney wasn't right for it and I'm prepared to accept he knows his players better than any journalist. Rooney could have played and been sent off and no doubt everyone would be criticising Ferguson for playing him. Personally I don't think how your mind can possibly be 100% on the game with what's been going on and if it isn't 100% then you shouldn't play.

    I think most people expected Everton to get something against Man Utd (they thrashed them at GP last season) and so a point isn't a bad result, although of course it will feel like it when you are 3-1 up going into extra time. Had the result been the other way and Man Utd scored twice in injury time we would be talking about "what champions do" and "how they never give in". Too bad we don't seem to give Everton the same credit.

    I said when Martin Atkinson added on 7+minutes on against Manchester City, that you could only criticise him if he didn't do the same (ie add on time for goals in injury time) when refereeing a different game. Today I agree with Moyes he seemed to bottle it and shows why we need an external timekeeper.

  • Comment number 25.

    Right for once, Phil. SAF showed rare weakness to exclude Rooney. With the wage, comes the responsibility to step up & face the music. United fans are paying his wages, so he can sort out his marital relations?

  • Comment number 26.

    Fergie was spot on leaving Rooney out. He's never at his best on returning to Goodison Park, no doubt down to the hostile environment. Last season he had a real stinker. However in Berbatov he has a player who is on form and has something to prove. His decision proved spot on as Berbatov played excellently to guide United to a 3-1 lead. He even proved useful on the odd defensive set piece as well. I'm sure Berbatov would have appreciated that he's had (and taken) the opportunity to prove he can be a sole striker for the club.

    Regardless of who played upfront, it would have been a 4-5-1 formation. Are you really suggesting that picking your "form striker" over one who has previously struggled under the Goodison hostility was a bad move? REALLY?! Dear lord.

  • Comment number 27.

    Rooney's actions will only hurt himself and his family in the long run..after all todays news is tomorrows chip paper for those of us not directly involved. Although what he did can't be condoned it's right Fergie allows him time to sort his family issues out and not just appear in public to satisfy the baying masses or media wolves. Colleen's sister is reported to be seriously ill in hospital...let them deal with their 'real' problems - we should just concentrate on the football.

  • Comment number 28.

    Leaving Rooney out didn't cost them the game, they were quite happily 3-1 up going into extra time, it was the lack of concentration from the defenders and the sheer heart of Everton that lost Manchester the game, not the fact they left Rooney out. They should have been able to see out the last few minutes easily.

    Well done Everton

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    Aren't we all making some assumptions? The NOTW never put all info out in one go, what is to come tomorrow? Wayne will know what is yet to come, how will that affect have affected him? He also saw his kid yesterday for the first time since......

    Who is to say he wasn't suspended internally - which would have been fair enough to preserve some sort of morality at our club? Correctly, if he was, Fergie kept it in house.

    Whether or not, that is the second time Utd have given away a lead with only extra time on the clock - that is not League winning form, and rooney has sweet fa do to do with that!

  • Comment number 31.

    who cares

  • Comment number 32.

    Our defence cost us the match, not Rooney's absence. We just switched off and paid the price.

    And I'm not sure what Moyes is complaining about. No-one heard the whistle, Jagielka played on, as did all of our defence, and nothing came of it. His claims are totally without merit.

  • Comment number 33.

    Sorry, but this result was on the cards because of the team selection. It is increasingly frustrating to watch promising youngsters come to this club only to be left on the bench or even let go. Half that team today was either too old or just not good enough.

  • Comment number 34.


    Well said. Totally agree.

  • Comment number 35.

    Poor Wayne.Everybody should in his words get over it.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    To deebal...I take your point about the result of the match not being affected by Rooney's absence, although I suppose we will never know. I just think Ferguson should have played him because Rooney proved he is strong enough mentally to shut out personal problems on the field.

    Will it not encourage more fans to criticise Rooney if Ferguson clearly felt it was not right to subject him to the levels of abuse he believes he gets at Goodison? Does it mean he does not think he could cope with it?

    Actually in recent times the levels of abuse aimed at Rooney by Everton fans have reduced dramatically - to the extent that he was even prepared to don an Everton shirt again and play in Jamie Carragher's testimonial last week.

  • Comment number 38.


    Your criticism of Johnny Evans is a little off target pal, did you actually watch the game today?

    He was throwing everything he could at the ball and won many a header against the towering figure of Fellaini, I must admit there has been occasions where he's looked a little suspect but hasn't Vidic too, any pace against him and he looks 3rd rate? And I'd have Rio over Johnny Evans anyday but he's an emerging talent and you seem to be one for giving young players a crack at the whip?

    I agree with you on John O'shea, he very rarely gives anything to the team and i thought it was an odd decision to play him in the middle of the park as nothing really is ever created from him.

  • Comment number 39.

    Phil, I think it's pretty obvious that Ferguson is protecting his player here...Do you really believe him when he said he didn't pick Rooney because of the abuse he gets? He didn't pick Rooney for one of two reasons. First of all (and most likely) he's not 'mentally' fit, i.e he needs time to sort out the situation with his wife, OR because of Utd's tight fixture schedule in the next week. Of course Fergie isn't going to admit that Rooneys' head isn't right, that would only provide more ammo for the papers. The abuse he would have received today might have been slightly worse than normal but since when is this a reason to drop a player? Fergie has proven before with Ronaldo, Ince, Beckham and Rooney for that matter that he's not afraid to throw players into the gauntlet. Rooney clearly isn't right at the moment and Fergie is protecting him, if not he would have played...The allegations in the papers, if true, cause no more offence to Everton than any other club anyway. For what its worth, he probably wouldn't have made a difference today, Utd's defence went to sleep in the last 5 mins and on current form I can't imagine Rooney being any more effective than Dimitar Berbatov.

  • Comment number 40.

    Well Phil I am dissappointed, terms like knee jerk reaction come to mind.

    "My view is that Ferguson should have played Rooney simply because of his quality, and it almost hinted at weakness (not something that can usually be associated with anyone or anything at Old Trafford) to exclude him."

    Since when has Rooney been a defender for United? Since when can you know for sure the Mental State of a Young Man footballer or not? Yes in his personal life perhaps a lot has happened that we don't know about. But to say not playing Rooney shows weakness is beyond rediculous. It's a strength to be able to take a decision not to play your best player for whatever reason. You don't know what that reason is. You delve into useless conjecture because what has lost United the 3 points, is a failure from midfield backwards. I am beginning to fear Fergusons lack of activity in the transfer market in the last few years is beginning to show. He has bought young untried players for the most part, Carrick has lost whatever he had and Hargreaves has lost his nerve completley. Ferdinand is past it. Relying on Scholes and Giggs is going to backfire , in footballing terms they are pensioners. Know that todays result had nothing to do with the absence of Rooney. Evertons hunger and Uniteds back four frailities being any different you would be lauding Fergusons master stroke at leaving Rooney out, which would also have been wrong. The one bright note is that Berbatov is beginning to show his worth. Baring a major miracle at United I am beginning already to see the writing on the wall. We might well struggle for 4th place this season but it won't be because of the presence or lack of Roo, Berba, Macheda, Owen, Hernadez, we are just missing the middle of the pitch...and the concentration it takes to win games, maybe even the keeper is getting on a bit?

  • Comment number 41.

    The result goes to show by the way that the notion of Fergie time is utter nonesense and yes Well Done Everton!

  • Comment number 42.

    Ferguson's problems lie at the back rather than in attack on this evidence - the return of Rooney will add to United's quality and reduce the risk of the nightmare that visited Ferguson in those closing moments.
    frankly taken as it is written this line is utter nonsense. I am disgusted with United. Not best pleased with Phil either.

  • Comment number 43.

    I honestly think this could be thought off as better results than Man U had last season. Last season Man U lost away to Everton and Fulham away. Two draws, as disappointing as shipping a lead is, is two points more than Man U got from those games last season. Also, last season Man U lost away to Burnley at a very early point in the season.

    The question of how they will do as games get more frequent, and players inevitably get tired/injured remains. Whether Rooney is in a proper state of mind is also a consideration. Why Fergie bought Hernandez and Bebe rather than Mezut Ozil i have no idea.

  • Comment number 44.

    Leaving Rooney out wouldn't have even been an issue if Fergie had used the 2 remaining subs he had for either 1/ replacing some tired legs or 2/ wasting some injury time. I'm baffled as to why he didn't do either.

  • Comment number 45.

    Just returned from the pub after seeing Burnley beat Preston. Marvellous to see two Fergusons being turned over in one day!

  • Comment number 46.

    "I just think Ferguson should have played him because Rooney proved he is strong enough mentally to shut out personal problems on the field."

    I'm not sure he did, as playing for England in an away game against Switzerland is very different to playing against the team you controversially left as a youngster. The barracking is symptomatic of an English interest - the Swiss weren't going to harangue him. Evertonians, on the other hand...

    "Will it not encourage more fans to criticise Rooney if Ferguson clearly felt it was not right to subject him to the levels of abuse he believes he gets at Goodison?"

    Yes, but there is an emotive angle to this: the abuse from Everton fans hurts him, whereas from everyone else it may just motivate him. I doubt being abused at Blackpool and West Brom will have anywhere near the same impact that it would have at Goodison Park - from his former fans, from people whose voices are like his own.

    "Does it mean he does not think he could cope with it?"

    In the instance of this match, yes. He's not an automaton, he's a person. I think Ferguson's show of compassion and empathy will strengthen Rooney's desire to perform for him, and for Man Utd.

  • Comment number 47.

    This appears to me to be a very arrogant article!

    I don't support United, but I think the best person to judge if Rooney was in the right frame of mind to play today is Fergie.

    An experienced manager, who with all due respect, is a little better qualified to make informed decisions about his team selection, rather than some two bob journalist stating his uninformed opinions.

    And United's failure to not take all three points was everything to do with their defending, and nothing to do with their attacking.

    How many visiting teams score 3 goals at Goodison?

    A very very poor article!

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    What happened has nothing to do with rooney, the problem wasn't goalscoring but defensive duty.

  • Comment number 50.

    Man Utd have THROWN AWAY 4 points in 2 away games. Im sorry, but they wont win the league this year as they aren't good enough. Also, teams cant afford to throw these points away at any point in the season.

    I will be gobsmacked if Chelsea dont walk it this year, they have everything. No-one will touch them, simple as that.

  • Comment number 51.

    Must have felt like a loss to Man U - made me feel great though.

  • Comment number 52.

    Playing for England abroad is different to playing for United in the league. With the national team Rooney was in camp,around fellow professionals and to an extent away from it all. But after the Switzerland match he left camp and returned to the problems he left behind. Maybe thats why he was fit to play for England and not United. Plus,the Berb is our form striker. If we play one up front against Rangers i think Rooney should start on the bench. He can't expect to just walk into the team.

  • Comment number 53.

    i know this is off topic of rooney but its still team selection, a selection i just cannot understand, not playin these youngsters fergie bangs on about and instead playin john o'shea in centre mid and macheda on the bench, why not play 4-4-2 and when we have the lead change to a more defensive 4-5-1 with o'shea or someone holding, it truly amazes me how he gets in the team in the first place, rafael is a better right back and i dont rate him as a midfielder but i guess fergie knows a bit better than me on how to manage a footy team but if i was him i would have got a midfield enforcer in to cover that back line as i dont see hargreaves ever coming back and if he does which i hope he does i reckon he will be that scared of injuring himself again he wont be the same battler as he was!! united til i die!!

  • Comment number 54.

    What is it with you media folks making a big deal out of Rooney's absence today? The abuse he would've gotten from the Everton fans would very likely have far worse than anything he usually gets from them. Not to mention, the score was 3-3, not 0-0. Would you still be asking about Rooney if it had ended 5-5? You should be questioning the defence instead.

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 56.

    This was a disappointing blog. I think the journalists felt cheated that Rooney didn't play after the week-long mediafest. (How many times was Rooney front-and-centre in the BBC Football page this week?) Did any of the journalists watch Rooney in training this week? He may not have been up to the mark, which is understandable given the circus going on around him. I wonder who Phil was referring to when he wrote Rooney's exclusion "hinted at weakness". Weakness of Rooney, Ferguson or Manchester United? It would hardly be a sign of United's weakness that they could afford to leave Rooney out and still put three goals past Everton. If anything, this past week has demonstrated that Rooney is all too human, and we all have our flaws and weaknesses. Give the guy a rest.

  • Comment number 57.

    I agree that leaving Rooney out was "a sign of weakness", if the published reasons (that he was going to take stick from the Everton supporters) is the real reason, but that is not what cost United the win.

    1 ) Where United have always been renouned for playing until the final whistle, and scoring late goals, they seem to have gotten into a bad habit of switching off at the end when leading. Forget this nonsense of playing "keep ball" (specially if you don't keep it!) and continue to attack. Attack is the best form of defence, and always will be.

    2 ) United's defence the past year has been a bit shaky, and opponents have realised that. The ability is there, but something is missing .... too many silly errors, folowed by blind panic. And Van Der Saar is usually found wanting when his defence is not protecting him. We need another top central defender, and a good goalkeeper. Rio is getting older, and injury prone, and Van Der Saar is no youngster, and we have no class act to relieve him or take over from him.

    3 ) What was SAF thinking? Why take off a defensive player (Evra) and replace him with an attacking midfielder (Park) with 10 minutes left when not chasing the game? I know that Evra was having a poor game, but not the right substitution. If we had been 3-1 down instead of up, and needed to chase the game, then fine .... as long as we attacked. But to make that substitution and then try to just see out the remaining 10 minutes was foolish. Not the best managerial decision I have ever witnessed.

    The end result ..... 2 points thrown away - again !!

  • Comment number 58.

    Sir Alex Ferguson is of course best placed to make this decision, but I just felt it sent out the wrong signal to say he wasn't playing Rooney to protect him from abuse from opposing supporters. This is the point I am making. I state very clearly that Rooney's absence did not affect the result - it was simply the premise behind the decision I found odd. A strange precedent in my opinion.

    On the other hand, while accepting United's problems were at the back, I spoke to some United fans after the game that felt Rooney's presence would have ensured they made more of the superiority they enjoyed. Do they have a point?

    What about Everton fans? I listened to a debate on Radio Merseyside after the game and some were critical of Moyes not playing a recognised striker. Is this a fair criticism? I think it was simply a reflection of how Everton's recognised strikers have not scored goals this season.

    Can Yakubu now start? He looked lively when he came on.

  • Comment number 59.

    Up Blues

  • Comment number 60.

    phil, im not being rude, but what difference do you think it would have made had we played Rooney? going forward we were superb, it was a crazy last 3 minutes that cost us, rooney would have made no difference to our poor defence.

  • Comment number 61.

    I think everyone has somewhat missed the point of this article. I don't think that anyone is saying that United would have won this game had Rooney played, however as they didn't win without him it makes it appear as though Ferguson has made a mistake and, as stated previously, it casts dispersions over Rooney's mentality. Maybe it was a calculated risk and Ferguson felt that his team were good enough to beat Everton, and that by dropping Rooney today it would motivate him even more for the Liverpool game. With Berbatov playing well today Rooney will have to prove that he deserves his place in the team, and, on the pitch at least, we all know Rooney enjoys a good challenge. To say that we shouldn't discuss Rooney or his situation is ridiculous, the man made his own decisions and must now take responsibility for them. As far as I'm concerned, if he was happy to sell the rights to his wedding day to the highest bidder, it is incredibly hypocritical to say that the media is now being overly intrusive. Only Ferguson and Rooney will know the full ins and outs (pardon the pun) of the decision making proccess today, the rest is purely speculation. Which is what football blogging is all about really.

  • Comment number 62.

    First of all Pienaar should've been sent off in the first half for intentionally elbowing Nani into his head. As a result of that United played nearly twenty minutes without him. So, it was a big advantage for Everton. I'm really surprised to see that this fact was left out or perhaps ignored by a person who supposedly writes about EPL.
    SAF leaving Rooney on the sidelines did the right decision bearing in mind next week's United congested schedule.
    As far as tactics are concerned, SAF was spot on. It's understandable to suggest that SAF lost the battle at Goodison Park but definitely he hasn't lost the war. The long EPL season is still in its infancy.

  • Comment number 63.

    I disagree with what is basically nothing more than gossip. You have no real idea why Rooney was dropped. He has been away while the revelations broke, perhaps Feguson deemed it best for him to spend time at home fixing his marriage so he could concentrate in the long term.
    The reason the fat waiter left Liverpool was because he was an awful man manager. Ferguson has survived so long because he is an excellent man manager. Personally he gets my vote over you any time.

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    Hotdogsalesman...did you watch the game? your point about taking off a left back and putting on Park as a mistake is just plain ignorant. John O'Shea was on the pitch, and is a very able left back, so he slipped in there and Park, revered for his energy and hustle was there to give the tiring United midfield a welcome boost. This is perhaps the most standard substitution you can make as a manager. It is not rocket science.

    As for Rooney's personal life, i couldn't possibly care any less.

    And as for the reason United shipped 3 goals - Gary Neville. Watch him for the first, when Van der Sar makes the save he gives up, and for the second goal he doesn't close down the cross quick enough. He is simply not good enough and there shouldnt be room for sentiment in the modern game.

  • Comment number 66.

    It was a very even game for the most part, Man Utd were more clinical but then stopped being after they thought they had it in the bag and players were going for solo glory instead.

    Everton always bring it for the best teams, which is a shame because they could easily challenge for the top 4 with the team they have, they have team unity, a great midfield, top defence, great keeper, and solid forwards, it should do SO much better than it does, and they'd get more results like today.

    Leaving Rooney out was 1000000% correct for me, and it proved it made very little difference, we looked better attacking without him really, and he wouldn't have made a different on the defence for the goals, the reception he would of got also would of effected the rest of the team, well certain members anyway, so yeah, I totally agree with it.

  • Comment number 67.

    And if rooney had played and got sent off after 20 mins and united had lost you Mcnulty would have written a blog on should fergie have played rooney considering his frame of mind.

    Easy to be wise after the event. Pathetic article especially considering the absence of rooney had nothing to do with the late goals conceded.

  • Comment number 68.

    Good to see Rooney left out, the lad needs some time to get his life sorted.

    It will be even better if he's not there on Tuesday .... another BLUE night for SAF !?!?

  • Comment number 69.

    "Phil McNulty asks if Man Utd were right to leave Wayne Rooney out against Everton "

    "Did his absence cost United the win? No."-Phil McNulty.

    Seems like a bit of a disconnect between the article and the title/headline.
    I guess that you don't write the headlines, Phil, but do the headline writers ever read the articles? And how much of either is written before the match?

  • Comment number 70.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 71.

    Sir Alex Ferguson is of course best placed to make this decision, but I just felt it sent out the wrong signal to say he wasn't playing Rooney to protect him from abuse from opposing supporters. This is the point I am making.


    But you are missing the point Mr. Mcnulty. Ferguson obviously felt that Rooney was not ready to play, to put him out there could've been detrimental to the team's performance and we could've easily witnessed a draw rather than loss. Just because he scored in Switzerland does not mean he would do so again; the Swiss atmosphere is 'nowhere near' hostile compared to Goodison Park, and I do not feel you have taken this into account in your blog!

  • Comment number 72.

    In addition i think that the UTD defence looked panicky, as they did without VDS. My reason for this was that the ball was coming back into the utd half at an evertonians feet too quickly too often, reason being our 'weak' midfield.

    To those that slate berba for work ethic etc all i will say is that if he had played in his usual position this would have been less likely today, as berba holds the baall well and plays nice triangles with scholes and nani. This part of his game often gets overlooked because people judge a player on goals scored rather than contribution to the team

  • Comment number 73.

    Interesting that not many of you raise a concern about Rooney's work load. He played 2 matches for England in the last 8 days and has another 2 important matches coming up in the next 7 days. It was imperative that Rooney has to be given rest at some point. He cant play 5 matches in 2 weeks. He has already played two and the option was to rest him here or to rest him against Rangers. In my opinion, it was a simple choice considering other factors as well. So I am not even sure why we are talking about Rooney's absence in the team but given that we are talking about it, today's draw has nothing to do with Rooney at all. He played and couldnt prevent Fulham from getting an equalizer and is susceptible to miss chances as any other forwards Utd has and he hasn't been in great form either to think that he will get ahead of Berba who has started the season very well. So according to me, Fergie got his decision spot on regarding Rooney however his decision not to substitute the tiring players and bring in the fresh legs probably cost us the game (I think, he hoped that Scholes/Giggs will show their experience and hold on to the ball better than Gibson which wasnt the case today). And what is it about Everton fans giving lesser stick to Rooney? Wasnt it the last year when they sang about 'Kia' which was probably the worse he could hear as a father? (I am pretty sure if he could endure that,he could live with anything).

  • Comment number 74.

    Coaches know their players far better than the pundits do. They train with them practically year round. I would never question a coach's decision not to play a player. Not Rooney's fault Man Utd's defense did not have the mental fortitude to cope with Everton's late attacks anyway.

  • Comment number 75.

    For many Manchester United optimists, they'll be seeing the draws against Fulham and Everton as 2 points in relation to the fact that they lost both fixtures last season. Don't think Rooney wasn't in the right frame of mind to play on any away ground in England let alone on Merseyside. Switzerland gave him the chance to dodge a lot of the stick from his scandal. Rooney hasn't been in form in the last few months despite grabbing a handful of assists against Bulgaria and a goal against Switzerland. With Manchester City not clicking and Arsenal as usual inexperienced and prone to injuries, it seems Chelsea will have an easier campaign this year.

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 77.

    For once Fergie put his own ego aside and did the right thing.

    Rooney would've got slaughtered, the likes of which we have never seen before and it would've forever been remembered as the Wayne Rooney Slaughter event, the result would've been irrelevant.

    At least now we are talking about the game and result. Man United were 3-1 up, there is no excuse for conceding 2 goals in injury time, even Wayne Rooney could not have prevented that.

    Phil McNulty I have always found your opinion slightly disagreeable but on this occasion you are so wrong. I don't think you fully comprehend the public anger that has been building up against Wayne Rooney over the last 6 days.

    Fergie you did the right thing in the right situation.

  • Comment number 78.

    It puzzles me (maybe because I am not a Brit but Dutch) how selfish players like Rooney are. Man U might have lost the title because of this game. All he really seems to care about is himself, not his wife, not his team and not even the National team with his poor performance @ the world cup which might have been caused by his escapades of the pitch, what a disgrace. I do not understand why Ferguson is protecting him in any way. It is apparent to me that a lot of these young players who are coming from a simple background cannot bear the responsibility once they become international stars with a bank account to match. They feel invincible until they come crashing down to earth. No backbone no character.

  • Comment number 79.

    At 1-3 I always felt even with 5 minutes + stoppage time to go that if everton scored 1, they would score 2. This happened. First 30mins belonged to everton but after man utd controlled it but for wasting a lot of chances and great saves by howard it would have been game over. When I saw paul scholes miss from 5 yds out late in the game even though we missed easier chances I felt that this could go the same way as the fulham game. I was right.

    However Phil, what really cost us the game is SAF for being to stubborn. He takes evra off for park so we know have 4 defenders (also a change of system). scholes, giggs and neville should never play for 90 minutes these days. We only made 1 substitute and that was take off a defender for a midfielder. That just invites pressure with less resistance. By the end of the games, giggs and scholes had nothing left as midfielders have to work the hardest. This made us become more clumsy in possession and sit back and we seem to not know how to defend. If gibson had come on to freshen things up then we may have won but instead SAF was to stubborn.

    People say man utd don't have really any replacements for scholes and giggs but we have enough cover to not let them play a full game each time. SAF being sentimental has cost us.

    I think SAF doesn't like man utd having good starts to the season. Yes we are unbeaten but we should have won both games away from home but instead our gd is 5 worse off and 4 points worse off. (As a manager you should change it for the better, taking evra off was not for the better)

    However everton did play well (first 30 mins and generally never gave up) but gave us a lot of easy chances which on another day if we were more ruthless would have had us score 5 or 6. Not meant to be but on the positive undefeated, 2 more points then last season from the same fixtures away from home.

  • Comment number 80.

    What speculative rubbish. Fergie knows his team and his players. Who really knows what is happenning. But we do know that Fergie has made decisions in the past that have definetly brought success to the club and have also kept his club on the ground.
    UTD had won that game today, and deservedly lost the two goal margin, by switching off. Fergie was clearly in no position to change what happenned.
    But that is football thats what we like about it, the unpredictability.

    Who knew Chelsea would win the league based on two dodgy decision in both games with UTD. Thats football.

  • Comment number 81.

    Hang on a minute. Isn't anyone prepared to give Everton any credit for their last minute heroics? Defensive meltdown by United? How about a superb pinpoint cross by Baines for Cahill, probably the best header of the ball in the EPL to get on the end of. He had to finish it remember! Followed by another searching cross that the tireless Fellaini got on the end of to knock down for Arteta to ram home. Where was the defensive blundering here? United were back in force and had defended in a disciplined organised unit all game.It was Evertons persistence that won it. If this had been another late show by United, the pundits wpould be giving them all the credit. If you are going to mention denfsive errors then look at Fergie's late subbing of Evra for the off form Park. Why take off a defender and change your shape at the back at this stage of the game. Why not do two subbings to waste more time and take off the knackered Scholes and Berbatov, who had done his job. Better still, give Everton the kudos for earning the draw they deserved.

  • Comment number 82.

    What was Neville doing on the pitch? He left United struggling down that side for the whole game. No excuses for letting two in after 90 mins, Untied should have closed shop and wrapped it up.

    However, I wish Neville would do everyone a favour and retire.

  • Comment number 83.

    I don't think it was a sign of weakness to leave him out.

    Ferguson must have been acutely aware of Rooney's state of mind. To play him in such a hostile environment could have ended in disaster. I am sure the Everton players,as well as the home crowd, would have done their utmost to wind him up....Rooney could easily have lost it, received a red card adding further misery to himself as well as 3 game ban.

    I am sure Ferguson will want the media frenzy to calm down before including Rooney in a premiership game.

    Good call Sir Alex

  • Comment number 84.

    I feel sorry for Wayne, plays his heart out for his country one day then gets slagged by English fans the next day, loyalty is in short supply these days, i really believe that fans should transcend their club loyalty in matters pertaining to the national team, to many cheap cynics, and all these Freudian farces that have engulfed English football are indicative of a trite public appetite for crass nosiness, folks private lives are their concern.

  • Comment number 85.

    But why are we all forgetting that even without the media circus and had it been Blackpool at home,the Berb has been our best striker. Its funny how you English always assume for club and country that up front is Rooney and another. He also has to earn his place. Lets not forget that Giggs and Scholes apart,the Berb is the most technically gifted player we have. We pay good money to watch matches and buy other merchandise only for Rooney to be so reckless. We should tie him to a new contract then sell him in close season.

  • Comment number 86.

    Amazing isn't it? Sir Alex making mistakes? First leaving out Rooney. And even when MU was leading 3-1, the legs of Giggs (no show in the last Q-hour), Scholes (lucky with getting away from not being booked for overly late tackles) and Gary Neville (too pedestrian on the flank back) were going away. But the Mgr only substituted one and that one was not one of the 3 oldmen mentioned (but Evra).

    So there were not enough legs to fight for the ball in midfield and both goals scored by Everton in the closing stage via MU's right side only served as the evidence to confirm that Neville should call it a day.

    As neutrals, we saw Gibson stood up together with Park Ji Sung. We thought it would be an immediate double substitution. As to why only one substitute was used really stumped us!

    So 2 points loss is the responsibility of the Mgr.

  • Comment number 87.

    @77 JobyJak
    this is exactly the kind of hate filled rubbish that keeps English football in the shallow end, i cannot imagine Brazilian fans worrying about who did who, a plebeian pratt justifying egocentric ravings, why not call it hate Wayne Rooney day, and of course the big losers are the fans who love to watch great players, i would imagine the Everton fans are well pleased they pushed Wayne out of the game, totally trite tantrums should not be guiding the game

  • Comment number 88.

    The notion that Rooney playing would have changed this result is nonsensical. A 3-1 lead for United against anyone going into injury time is good enough 999 times out of 1000. Not today.

    Ferguson's mistake was telling everyone why he left Rooney out. If he had kept his trap shut, then the effect would have been shown that this was a normal "squad" decision.

    United have chucked 4 points away now and we're only into the first month of the season. The problem, as I see it, is that they have developed a cocky attitude in the last 1/4 of their games and they lose focus. In this league, that will get a lesser manager fired.

    Ferguson will straighten it out but let's move onto something more newsworthy now, Phil. This stuff is getting old.

  • Comment number 89.

    I actually think United could have won by 4 or 5 goals with a top class finisher on the pitch. They over elaborated whereas Rooney would have been more direct. Not sure the Rangers fans will be any kinder to him than the toffees but I suppose it's a home game. As for the points dropped? Utd are actually 2 points better off having lost at Fulham and Everton last season.

  • Comment number 90.

    Geddin Everton and Boo-Hoo Rooney. Typical cowardly SAF robbing the paying public of their fun. Not picking him in the squad just cos the nasty toffeemen might be mean to him. Just like not speaking to the Beeb cos they were mean to his son.

    Look, he probably left him out to avoid the boy getting wound up/sent off/suspended etc Its the only possible explanation, but misguided i think. What if the Rangers fans are nasty as well? and Isn't it Liverpool next week. Ha Ha absolutely hillarious

    JobyJak.....are you mental? Slaughtered? Peter Shilton was in Goal (ie nowhere to go) when he had a similar incident. John Terry took it like a man as well, All Rooney would have had to do to avoid being 'slaughtered' is put a bulge in the auld onion bag and the fans would have shut up.

    Rooney is a good player but a very small man - much like his manager - and, now i think of it, a certain Mr Cantona, can't take a bit of stick off the fans pathetic, the lot of em.

  • Comment number 91.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 92.

    Paint Rooney as a coward for not playing against Everton.
    He (Rooney) shows himself as a weasel with his actions against Collen and in the process shows that he is less than a boy for not facing the music!

  • Comment number 93.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 94.

    Playing in Switzerland for England would not have the same impact as playing in Liverpool, at Rooney's 'home' team no less.
    The abuse and criticism would have been abhorrent ( and maybe rightly so).
    Fergusons reasons for not playing Rooney were sound.

  • Comment number 95.

    This season's Man U defence is full of holes. Plenty of goals are going to leak thru that porous back 4! Sterner striking contingents like those of Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Man City, etc are going to expose it more.
    With the current back 4 I can see them slipping out of the top 4 come May.

  • Comment number 96.

    Cliveeta.....'The abuse and criticism would have been abhorrent'

    HAVE YOU HEARD OF JOHN BARNES? VIV ANDERSON? Justin Fashanu? probably not, but the abuse they took as black players could be appropriately described as such. Rooney taking deserved (and no doubt hilarious) stick for visiting the cathouse is simply good fun. Abhorrent my hat. he's a cowardary custard like his boss, the boss who wont speak to the Beeb cos they said nasty things about his son

  • Comment number 97.

    Manchester United will not win the premiereship title as long as Chelsea is still arround. Look at their results in the past four game. They collected 12 points and scored 16 goals. For me Wayne Rooney is no longer the best striker . His form already drop and look like there's no way to comeback. His reputation also drop since failed to shine in the world cup. I think Alex Ferguson have to find another striker to replace him. Look at Chelsea striker like Didier Drogba, Nicholas Anelka, Salomon Kalou, Sturidge and etc. They managed to improve game after game. Carlos Anceloti have no problem to play any of them because they have the same quality ... can score goals. Man United depend on Rooney and Berbatov to score. The others player like Giggs and Scholes can score goal too but both of them too old to compete. They are no longer effective as they did many many years before. So Chelsea will be the champions again this season.

  • Comment number 98.

    #89 et all, I don't think the Rangers fans will concern themselves too much with having a go at Rooney, maybe a few misguided chants but generally we will be more concerned with the football on show on the pitch. And most of the football, like the goals, will be coming from the Gers !!

    ManU 1 - Rangers 3 (with or without Fergie time !)

  • Comment number 99.

    i think rooney should have plated yesterday, yes he would have faced verbal abuse but no doubt he adds something extra to the team. you'll find him at the back defending, in the midfield creating and he'll score as well. scholesy, giggs they've been great servants of the club but they no longer last 90min, unreplaceable...i don't think so, lets give the new youngsters a chance, i think this season should be a chance to rebuild not to concentrate on the same average guys who failed last season

  • Comment number 100.

    United drew partly because they lost concentration and also due to Everton's attitude. It's got nothing to do with Rooney. If Rooney played, he may have scored and put the game beyond Everton, or the ball may have deflected on his shin resulting in a goal for Everton or he may have been sent off. The fact is that he wasn't there and United should have one.
    Any decent team must know what to do when they are leading 3:1 at the end of 90 minutes and if you don't defend that lead it cant be the result of a managers refusal to select a player- striker midfielder or defender.


Page 1 of 3

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.