Wayne Rooney has criticised former boss Sir Alex Ferguson for trying to go ‘toe-to-toe’ with Barcelona in Manchester United’s Champions League final defeats to them in 2009 and 2011.
The two sides met each other in the two finals in Rome and at Wembley, with the Catalan giants emerging victorious on both occasions with 2-0 and 3-1 victories respectively.
Rooney scored an equaliser for United in the Wembley showdown in 2011, but was unable to add to another Champions League medal to the one he won in 2008 against Chelsea in Moscow.
Now reflecting on the two matches in his Sunday Times column – in which he was also previewing Manchester City’s second leg against Real Madrid – he slammed Ferguson’s boisterous approach against Pep Guardiola’s men.
‘It’s always hard for a club like Real to go into a game saying “we’ll surrender the ball”. It is the same for United,’ Rooney wrote.
‘But we lost two Champions League finals going toe-to-toe with Guardiola’s Barcelona, by trying to press high and get round them, which was suicidal.
‘I remember Alex Ferguson saying “we’re Man United and we’re going to attack, it’s in the culture of this football club” and thinking “I’m not too sure about this”.
‘I think all the players knew, deep down, it was the wrong approach, that we were abandoning the way that had brought us success in that 2008 semi-final — and sure enough both times we got outplayed.
‘There is being true to the club, but then there’s sitting back afterwards and thinking “we lost”.
‘For me, it doesn’t matter how you do it in these big Champions League games, as long as you win — look at how Liverpool ground it out in last year’s final — and I think [Zinedine] Zidane has the same mindset.’
Rooney’s comments come a few months after he admitted that he used to clash with Sir Alex Ferguson almost every game during the early years of his Manchester United career.
Speaking to The Guardian, he said: ‘His man-management is the best I’ve ever seen.
‘I always remember as a kid, every half-time arguing with him. Constantly. I remember thinking, “Why’s he keep having a go at me? There’s players far worse than what I’ve been”.
‘But the older you get, you realise why he’s doing it. He’s obviously aiming at other players who can’t take it. He would have a go at me for dribbling, which I very rarely … well, I dribbled a bit more then.’
His comments also support the remarks he made in May that former United boss Louis van Gaal was the most tactically astute manager he had worked under, claiming he learnt the most from the Dutch boss.