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 the 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.
City have lost games against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham across all competitions this season.
“Manchester City may never have a better chance to win the Champions League,” he added. “Liverpool are out. In my opinion, Bayern Munich are not quite as good as in previous years, and City are 2-1 up against Real Madrid in the round of 16, going into a second leg at home.
“The Champions League is the competition that Pep Guardiola most wants to win and for City to take that next step as a club, this is the trophy they need.
“Friday’s second leg at the Etihad is massive. Sergio Ramos is suspended, which is a huge loss to the Real defence, and I think City will score. Whether they are solid enough at the back themselves is my only question about Guardiola’s side.” – BeIN.