Sir Alex Ferguson will not let supporters' hostility towards Wayne Rooney influence his team selection against Everton this season, he said, as he demanded his Manchester United players show the club in a "proper light" at Goodison Park, following the 6-1 loss to Manchester City.
Rooney was denied a return to his former club in September last year, when Ferguson omitted him from a 3-3 draw at the height of allegations about the player's private life and disputes with United over a new contract and with his manager over claims of an ankle injury. "We've made the decision because he gets terrible abuse here and we don't want to subject him to that," the United manager said at the time.
Before Saturday's match, however, Ferguson said he had no reservations over deploying Rooney against David Moyes' team and that the striker had learned to handle the abuse he receives, but which has diminished over time, at Goodison. "He's well used to that [abuse], it's not a problem. I don't think people thrive on abuse but you can cope with it," Ferguson said. The manager put Rooney on the bench at Liverpool in the first league game after his costly red card for England against Montenegro.
"I don't think the players will goad him, there's not been any history of that when we've played Everton. He seems to get on well with their players. But you know what fans are like. He's a traitor as far as they're concerned, and he's never going to change that. He's done OK there actually. He's had some good moments there."
The United manager added: "He's had mixed success going to Everton. He's scored a couple of goals there in previous games. He gets booed as normal. He got booked in one game and I took him off because there was no way I was going to give the referee an opportunity to send him off. With the hype around the ground, he's going to be booed every time he makes a challenge. He's had mixed fortunes there but he's done well in some of the games and hopefully that will be the case tomorrow."
For Ferguson, the need for a response to last Sunday's humiliation supersedes Rooney's return to his boyhood club, although rather than lying in bed with a pillow over his head, as he did following the 5-1 defeat at Maine Road in September 1989, the United manager does not want to dwell on the 6-1 result. "We can analyse it as much as we want but it's not going to do us any good," he said. "My attitude is to completely forget it. It never happened. It's not going to do us any good going back on that game. What can happen is tomorrow we can show Manchester United in our proper light, and we didn't do that last week."
United, of course, have recovered many times before and Ferguson's attempt to airbrush the derby from his consciousness did not lessen his demand for a victory at Everton, with City now five points clear at the top of the Premier League. "We seem to have bounced back pretty well over the years," he said. "We lost 5-0 to Newcastle [in 1996-97] and won the league by 10 or 11 points [the margin was in fact seven]. We have the experience of being able to recover many times, and that's what you have to do at a club like United. There's no other way. Expectation lives with us every minute of our lives and we get used to that. Everton is no different from other occasions when we've lost games. We have to recover. We've got to win."
Ashley Young is a doubt for the game with a toe injury but the central defender Nemanja Vidic, the United captain, could make his first league start since the first day of the season, having returned from a calf problem against Otelul Galati in the Champions League and Aldershot in the Carling Cup.
"He's always needed games over the years, Nemanja. We know him well and that's why I never used him last week against City," Ferguson said. "On Tuesday [against Aldershot] he developed as the game went on and finished very strong, so he's definitely a consideration for Everton."