Sir Alex Ferguson hails Wayne Rooney's 'courage' after Manchester United striker returns to score winner
Wayne Rooney claimed his match-winning penalty against Rangers was for the Manchester United supporters after insisting he was not affecting by nerves as he stepped up to score his first goal since threatening to leave Old Trafford.
Rooney, starting his first game for two months, raced to the corner of Ibrox housing the traveling supporters after converting the 86th minute penalty which confirmed United’s qualification for the Champions League knock-out stages.
The 25-year-old’s relationship with the United supporters has been damaged by his week-long contract stand-off with the club last month, with many fans viewing his stance as an act of treachery.
But Rooney held out an olive branch to his doubters by admitting his first instinct after scoring was to celebrate with the United supporters.
He said: “Obviously it is a bit of a relief for me to score and hopefully I can build on this now.
“I wanted to celebrate with our fans, so I went over to them and a fan jumped on me!
“There were not many nerves really. I knew what I was doing and where I was going to put it (the penalty). I can only do that.
“If the keeper guesses the right way and saves it, so be it, but thankfully it went in.
“I just hope I can go on a goalscoring run now. I am delighted to be back playing again and I felt good. I felt fit throughout the game. Hopefully I can build on this performance and this goal and take it from there.”
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson paid tribute to Rooney’s self-belief following his decision to take responsibility for the penalty.
Ferguson said: “It took courage, but he has never been short of that. It was a fantastic penalty, a very good penalty.
“Wayne needs the games and the way we’re going to do that is to keep him on he pitch for 90 minutes.
“That will continue now as we try to get him to his level. He’s rusty. He needs games, that’s obvious, but it’s a start for him.
“He’s not had an easy night. He’s missed a couple of chances, but that’s what we expected.
“There’s no issues with that [the fans] at all. Every time he scores he weds himself to the fans and the players.”
United will secure top spot if they avoid a two goal defeat against Valencia next month and, despite seeing his team score just six goals in Europe this season, Ferguson insists they are progressing well in the Champions League.
Ferguson said: “Our away form in Europe has been very good over the years.
“But for that injury-time winner Bayern Munich scored against us last season, we’d have had an unbeaten record that stretched over three years.
“We’ve found a way of playing in Europe away from home and there’s good composure in the team. The atmosphere is always big at Ibrox and you have to quiet it. I think we did that well.
“We want to win the group. We’ve got Valencia at home and I think we’ll be all right.”