Ferguson hoping midfield stint will give Rooney boost

AFP, STOKE-ON-TRENT, England

Tue, Apr 16, 2013 - Page 20

Alex Ferguson says Wayne Rooney’s encouraging performance in central midfield during Manchester United’s 2-0 win at Stoke City will help his confidence.

Rooney had a hand in United’s second goal as he set up Robin van Persie, who was fouled by Andy Wilkinson before slotting home the resulting penalty.

“Wayne was brilliant,” Ferguson said. “I was thinking he possibly needed a different role in terms of getting his confidence back.”

“He has been under a bit of criticism, not serious, but there were some doubters nonetheless,” he said. “He’s a fantastic player and our job is to get that confidence and form back. I thought a spell in midfield would do him the world of good and it worked for us.”

The switch allowed Ferguson to partner Javier Hernandez with Van Persie in attack, which paid dividends as Van Persie scored his first goal in 11 games.

Ferguson paid tribute to his side’s character as they mastered difficult, windy conditions to go 15 points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

Michael Carrick scored after just four minutes before Van Persie’s 67th-minute penalty secured the victory at the Britannia Stadium and United can now seal the title next weekend if City fail to win their next two matches.

“The players were fantastic,” Ferguson said. “There were all the ingredients for a shock.”

“It was windy and the ball was moving through the wind and it’s never easy to come here anyway,” he said. “I was sat at the beginning of the game seeing the wind affect the ball and saying to myself ‘it is the worst day you could possibly come to Stoke.’”

“The players deserve all the credit for the battling performance they gave,” Ferguson said. “The character of the team is showing and I don’t think you can leave your character in the dressing room.”