Rooney a hooligan, says Spanish paper ahead of Bernabeu clash
Alex Ferguson brushes off diatribe against Wayne Rooney as Man Utd prepare to face Real Madrid
WAYNE ROONEY is a "freckle-faced demon" and a "hooligan". That's the startling claim of Spanish rag Marca, the mouthpiece of Real Madrid and a paper seemingly intent on stoking the fires ahead of tonight's crucial Champions League game between Manchester United and Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
Marca launched its astonishing attack on the United striker in an article headlined ‘El Coco" (bogey man). Yet the Daily Mirror claims that far from riling the Red Devils, the insults prove only "how scared Real are of the Manchester United striker".
The Marca article states: "Wayne Rooney is a football player and hooligan all rolled into one. To look at him, you'd think he was one of the 4,000 British fans on the terraces, yelling and drinking beer and jumping the queue to get in through Gate D."
Though even the most diehard United fan might find it hard to dispute such a description, the ferocity of the diatribe is almost unprecedented. Nonetheless, United manager Alex Ferguson brushed off the Spanish spittle, saying: "I'm not interested in what a Madrid paper says."
He then heaped praise on Rooney, whose partnership with Robin van Persie is expected to be crucial to United's chances of success this evening. "He's a mature player now, he's 27. When players mature, little bits of their game change in terms of consistency. His goal-scoring has been very consistent. He used to score in snatches, a few goals together, but now he's more consistent."
And Ferguson was adamant that Rooney won't be affected by Marca's attack. "Wayne can't speak or read Spanish, can he?" said Ferguson. "So we'll be all right."
While Ferguson was happy to crack the odd quip with the press, the contrast with Real boss Jose Mourinho couldn't have been greater. He was in a foul mood when he attended the obligatory press conference. The Guardian reported that the former Chelsea manager's "default setting was to treat questions like carefully laid traps".
The source of Mourinho's sullenness are the stories emanating from the Bernabeu suggesting the club is in crisis under his stewardship. Asked if this was true, Mourinho snapped at the assembled press corps: "Are you worried about my crisis? I don't think you are. I'm not."
A different approach was tried, with one reporter asking if his players were behind him. "I am on the bench... they are on the pitch, so they are in front of me not behind me."
The Special One? More like the Snarky One.