Rooney: I just want to play
Four-goal hero Wayne Rooney knows it will be impossible to please his two masters for the remainder of the season. Rooney's amazing exploits against Hull City yesterday swept Manchester United to the summit of the Barclays Premier League - the third team in a week to hold the top spot - and took him to within a hat-trick of his best-ever seasonal tally as a professional.
Almost immediately, the 24-year-old began looking forward to a crunch week that starts with the eagerly-awaited Carling Cup decider with Manchester City on Wednesday before United visit Arsenal for what would be a first-versus-second Premier League blockbuster if present positions remain unaltered.
Ferguson knows he needs his talisman. Back home in Italy where he is recovering from knee surgery, Fabio Capello will glory in Rooney's achievements while secretly wishing his number one striker could take a break.
"I am sure the two of them have different ideas for me for the rest of the season," smiled Rooney, after the fourth hat-trick of his United career and the second this term. "But I want to play and whenever I am asked to play I will. Even when the manager (Ferguson) tells me when he is giving me a rest I will want to play. But I will have to be sensible."
What would be good for Capello is impossible for Ferguson. There is no chance of Ferguson taking Rooney out of the firing line for a prolonged period given his importance to United at present.
When Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid last summer, Ferguson questioned where United were going to get the additional 30 goals the former FIFA World Player of the Year was virtually guaranteed to get. Rooney is supplying them, just as he felt would happen.
"I am a confident person," he said. "I have had responsibility on me since I signed, so it was not extra pressure. When Cristiano left I knew I would have to score more goals. As a team we are doing that. Everybody is chipping in and, so far, we have scored more than last season."
Many bright spots
The one on-pitch frustration for United was that it took them an hour and a quarter to get a second once Rooney had opened their account by netting the rebound after Paul Scholes' piledriver had been too hot to handle for Boaz Myhill.
Positives were plentiful. Aside from Rooney, Rio Ferdinand completed the full 90 minutes of his comeback after a three-month absence and produced an assured defensive display. On only his fifth league start Michael Owen caught the eye, even if he failed to take a couple of decent chances, while Nani produced possibly his best display since joining the Red Devils for £17m from Sporting Lisbon in 2007, creating Rooney's second and third goals before substitute Dimitar Berbatov set up a fourth.
"I am happy with my performance," said Nani. "It was good to create the goals for Wayne because he is such a fantastic player. When you see your striker score four goals it gives us all confidence because we know we have someone who can score every game."
Ferguson calls for unity
There is an undercurrent, though, that goes far beyond Manchester City and those comments from chief executive Garry Cook about a place at Wembley already being assured. Even if the successful bond issue has taken any immediate worries away from club finances, the size of United's debt - now in excess of £700m - and the doomsday scenario of their training ground at Carrington, or even Old Trafford itself being sold, as laid out in the prospectus for the bond, has mobilised an anti-Glazer faction that clearly has plenty of sympathizers, judging by the number of people joining in songs that condemned the Americans.
Although the reaction did actually generate a decent atmosphere, it is hardly what Ferguson wants, which is why he devoted such a large chunk of his programme notes yesterday to the issue in a call for unity that went totally unheeded.
"Everyone is entitled to their opinion and to express disapproval if they don't like what they see around them," Ferguson said. "I am not slow to express disapproval myself if there is something I don't agree with, even in the boardroom with the directors.
"But once I walk out of that meeting, I get on with my job as manager of the team. Some of our fans are clearly unhappy with the financial position, but we mustn't allow the situation to become divisive. We must remain loyal to the cause of Manchester United."