The wily old Sir Alex Ferguson has today shown that he knows how to play the media and at the same time stop the media frenzy of rumour and speculation about the future of striker Wayne Rooney.
Since Rooney’s omission from the team to play Real Madrid this week, the media and twitter has seen this as an indication that Ferguson’s relationship with him is broken and that he would be leaving the club in the summer.
This morning football journalists speculated on twitter about the weekly press conference and who would ask the first question. Ferguson’s reputation for being taciturn and banning journalists for asking difficult questions is legendary. Indeed it transpired that he has imposed a ban on two newspapers – the Mail and Independent – because of the speculation this week.
Ferguson has shown how to take back the agenda from the media. He started the press conference by putting his points across before any questions were asked.
“The Wayne Rooney nonsense first? Or do you want to talk sense? The issue you’re all going on about is absolute rubbish. There is absolutely no issue between Wayne and I. Rooney will be here next season you have my word. To suggest we don’t talk to each other on the training ground is absolute nonsense.”
Having done that he was able to put across the positive messages about where the club goes from here.
Some of the sceptical football journalists who have seen it all with Ferguson even acknowledge a solid performance. The Sunday Times’ Jonathan Northcroft tweeted: “SAF in prime form, all in all. Joking, grabbing back the agenda.”
Ferguson’s performance has shown that in the whirl of a media storm that addressing the issues up front and being prepared to stand by your convictions enables you to put your side of the story across in a much more strident way than responding to questions.
With Rooney however, only time will tell if his omission was the beginning of the end of this time at Manchester United as Ferguson is known for, sometimes, giving the media the wrong steer. But for now for him it is mission accomplished.
Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.