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Wayne Rooney accuses Sir Alex Ferguson of ‘suicidal’ tactics in Champions League finals against Barcelona

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A dejected Wayne Rooney of Manchester United at the final whistle (Photo by AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

Wayne Rooney says his Manchester United team-mates knew ‘deep down’ that Sir Alex Ferguson’s tactics were ‘suicidal’ going into Champions League finals against Barcelona in 2009 and 2011.

United reached three finals in four years from 2008 onwards but Ferguson’s dream of achieving consecutive European Cups was denied by Barcelona in Rome in 2009.

The Red Devils were the holders at the time and saw off Barcelona at the semi-final stage in 2008 before beating Chelsea in the final in Moscow. United didn’t concede against the La Liga giants over 180 minutes and the tactics that Carlos Queiroz put together before the semi-final is still spoken about at Old Trafford.

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United conceded space and possession to the Catalans, deciding instead to hit them on the counter. The tactics worked handsomely but Queiroz left in 2008 and United decided to attack Barcelona in Rome in 2009.

Advertisement United were hammered at Wembley (Picture: Getty)

After a blistering opening 10 minutes, United fell behind to a Samuel Eto’o goal and Barcelona controlled the rest of the game before Lionel Messi doubled his side’s lead.

Though that final was one-sided, it was nothing compared to the final in Wembley two years later. Once again, United put up a spirited fight in the opening ten minutes but Barcelona’s ‘carousel’ of possession kicked in and United were well beaten in a 3-1 defeat.

Rooney was played on the left-wing in the 2009 final before scoring in the 2011 final but the Derby County captain says United’s players were not convinced by Ferguson’s tactics in either final.

Ferguson lost two of his four European Cup finals as United boss (Picture: Getty)

Previewing Real Madrid’s upcoming Champions League last-16 second leg clash against Manchester City, Rooney wrote in his Sunday Times column: ‘It’s always hard for a club like Real to go into a game saying “we’ll surrender the ball”. 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 [Zinedine] Zidane has the same mindset.’ 

MORE: Christian Pulisic promises to be ‘back in no time’ after FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal

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