Sir Alex Ferguson dismissed the suggestion that Wayne Rooney could feature regularly in central midfield after the England striker put in a highly impressive performance in the role during Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Otelul Galati.
United’s midfield injury crisis has deprived Ferguson of Tom Cleverley, and Michael Carrick, while Anderson and Darren Fletcher are finding their way back to fitness after long lay-offs.
The United casualty toll prompted Ferguson to withdraw Rooney from his attack at Old Trafford on Wednesday into a deep-lying midfield role – and the England star duly delivered a man-of-the-match performance.
Although Rooney was denied an 87th minute goal – his deflected shot was officially declared an own goal from Cristian Sarghi – Ferguson was delighted by the striker’s assured performance.
“I think he was fantastic in the centre of midfield,” Ferguson said. “His awareness of people around him, his choice of passing was very good.
“He was our best player. He showed great awareness of that role. His selection of passes at times was very good. He showed great energy, determination. I think we’ve got a really great performance out of him tonight.”
Ferguson played down suggestions that Rooney may begin to feature regularly in United’s midfield, admitting that his hand had been forced by circumstance.
“We have got injuries and that’s one of the reasons we played him there tonight. Anderson’s just come back, he needed a game.
“Tom Cleverley is injured, Michael Carrick is injured, Darren Fletcher is coming back but it’s probably better if he plays on Saturday.
“So Wayne was an option for us, and it was a good option because he’s got all the qualities you need to be a centre midfield player.”
Rooney meanwhile was happy to slot into his unaccustomed position.
“I played there a lot when I was younger. You get a lot of the ball and you get to defend,” he said.
“I’ve said before I’m a good enough footballer to play anywhere on the pitch. That’s not being big-headed, I’m capable of doing that so if the manager wants me to do that I can.”
Ferguson meanwhile was looking forward to United’s next Champions League game, against Portuguese side Benfica at Old Trafford in a fortnight.
United have regularly crossed swords with Benfica during their various European campaigns, most famously in the 1968 Wembley final which marked the club’s first victory in the competition.
“I think that given the history between both of our clubs, it should be a good night, a really good atmosphere, a really big game, and I think we can look forward to that,” Ferguson said.
The only sour note for Ferguson was an injury to striker Michael Owen, who cut a forlorn figure as he was substituted after only 11 minutes with a thigh injury, having helped create United’s first goal for Antonio Valencia only moments earlier.
“It’s a real blow for the lad, he’s done a thigh muscle. It was a complete freak injury,” Ferguson said.
“He made the first goal for us. He made a fantastic run to the front post from Phil Jones’ cross and it took all the defenders with him to set up a tap in for Antonio. It’s a tragedy for the lad. I really feel for him.”