Soccer-Ferguson breaks silence, assures Rooney over future

MANCHESTER, England, March 7 Fri Mar 8, 2013 10:20am GMT

MANCHESTER, England, March 7 (Reuters) - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson broke his silence on Friday over this week's Champions League exit and dismissed media speculation that dropped striker Wayne Rooney's Old Trafford days were numbered.

The England international only came on as a 73rd-minute substitute against Real Madrid in United's biggest game of the season on Tuesday when his side were 2-1 behind and reduced to 10 men after the controversial dismissal of winger Nani.

"He will be here next year, you've got my word on that," Ferguson told a news conference. "He will be involved on Sunday (against Chelsea in their FA Cup quarter-final), no doubt about that.

"There is absolutely no issue between Wayne Rooney and I, to suggest we don't talk to each other on the training ground is absolute nonsense.

"He understood the reason for not playing him was completely tactical and I think we were right ... (Danny) Welbeck is the best player we have in terms of operating in a double role."

It was the first time Ferguson had addressed the media since Tuesday's match when he was too distraught to speak publicly, sending assistant Mike Phelan to the news conference instead after Nani's 56th-minute red card completely changed the game.

The Portugal winger was sent off in the last 16 second leg match after a high-footed collision with Real defender Alvaro Arbeloa with United leading 1-0 at the time and Ferguson remonstrated angrily on the touchline.

The Spanish visitors scored twice in the next 13 minutes through Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo to go through to the quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate after a 2-1 win on the night.

Even Real coach Jose Mourinho questioned whether Nani should have been dismissed, saying on another occasion it could have been a yellow card, while Ferguson said it was hard to keep belief in the game after decisions like this.

"It's hard to keep your faith in the game when you see what's happened in the last few years. It's the third time we've been knocked out by a referee's decision," he said.

But he did not want to dwell on the past, saying the focus now was the two remaining chances of silverware in the shape of the FA Cup and the Premier League, where they hold a 12-point lead over champions Manchester City.

"In the analysis in the cold (light) of the day you realise for Manchester United you just have to get on with it, nothing can be done now," the 71-year-old Scot said.

"I've cleared my mind now and just have to get on with it, this is just another day in the history of the club, it's not a good day but another day. My job now is to galvanise the troops, who were fantastic on Tuesday."

UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against United on Wednesday for failing to fulfil their media obligations after the game.

Managers are obliged to give a post-match news conference and players, who have to pass through a mixed zone of waiting media, have to give interviews to audiovisual rights holders. No United players stopped to speak on Tuesday. (Reporting by Sonia Oxley; Editing by Patrick Johnston)