A simple but effective pearl of wisdom from Fergie.
Over the course of 13 years, Wayne Rooney went from being the world’s most expensive teenager to one of Manchester United’s greatest strikers.
Signed from Everton in 2004, Rooney arrived at Old Trafford with bags of natural ability.
But it was clear – as it was with Cristiano Ronaldo – that he needed to be coached, refined and developed.
Eager to please during the formative stages of his United career, the future England captain would run his socks off at the head of Alex Ferguson’s team’s attack.
And while Ferguson was keen for the youngster to express an appetite for putting in the hard yards, the Scot knew that it was important for his players to conserve their energy when they could.
“You learn little things along the way,’ Rooney wrote in his column for The Times earlier this year.
“The best advice I received was from Fergie. He’d say ‘you’re working too hard’ and at first I thought, ‘What do you mean? Isn’t that what you want?’
Ferguson wanted Rooney to conserve energy.
“But I used to try to run as hard as I could for 90 minutes and in the last ten minutes be tired.
“The manager wanted his strikers to keep a little bit in the tank, because that match-winning chance might not arrive until the 90th minute.”
Rooney, who won five Premier League titles and a Champions League in nine years under Ferguson, also recalled how he would focus on shooting exercises when he felt fatigued during training.
Rooney’s rationale was that if he could grow accustomed to scoring while feeling tired, it would feel ‘easier’ in matches when he had much more in the tank.
“I used to practise finishing when I was tired,” said United’s all-time record goalscorer.
“At the end of a training session, I’d get a ’keeper and Eric Steele, the goalkeeping coach, and do five sets of six: a little sprint then a shot.
“By the fifth and sixth rep of each set, you were out of breath – and if you learn to finish when you’re tired, it’s so much easier when you get a chance and you’re normal.”
✅ Sir Alex Ferguson
✅ David Moyes
Wayne Rooney has been on the phone to some of his former managers seeking advice in his new role at Derbypic.twitter.com/Qg8NRZEb2u
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 3, 2020
Rooney’s natural work-rate was also highlighted by Ferguson in his autobiography while he discussed the striker’s ability.
“In my opinion, he was not the quickest learner but what he had was a natural instinct to play the game, an intuitive awareness of how football worked,” wrote Ferguson.
“A remarkable raw talent. Plus, natural courage and energy, which is a blessing for any footballer. The ability to run all day is not to be undervalued.
“In a training ground exercise, he wouldn’t absorb new ideas or methods quickly. His instinct was to revert to type, to trust what he already knew. He was comfortable in himself.”