Wayne Rooney has suggested Alex Ferguson committed tactical suicide during Manchester United’s two Champions League final losses to Barcelona.
Rooney became a European champion under Ferguson when United beat Chelsea on penalties in 2008 final in Moscow but they fell at the last hurdle in their bid to retain the trophy the following season, running into Pep Guardiola’s formidable Barca in Rome.
United had the chance to avenge that 2-0 loss in the Italian capital at Wembley in 2011 but, despite Rooney cancelling out Pedro’s first-half opener, superb goals from Lionel Messi and David Villa saw the Blaugrana run out deserved 3-1 winners.
Rooney was discussing how best to approach crunch European nights in his Sunday Times column, previewing the forthcoming Champions League last-16 showdown between Manchester City and Real Madrid.
City hold a 2-1 advantage from the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu but Rooney expects the pragmatic approach of three-time winner Zinedine Zidane to pose problems to Guardiola’s current side – something that did not always come so easily to Ferguson.
“It’s always hard for a club like Real to go into a game saying, ‘We’ll surrender the ball’,” Rooney said
“It is the same for United. 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 Zidane has the same mindset.”
Rooney feels his old cross-city rivals are well placed to claim an elusive first Champions League crown, although doubts linger over a defence that has appeared suspect against elite opponents this season.