Manchester United forward and captain Wayne Rooney put off-field problems to one side and delivered an inspirational speech that propelled his side to a 3-0 English Premier League win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
The England international was subjected to an unwanted set of headlines after apparently being knocked out by Stoke City defender Phil Bardsley during a sparring session in the kitchen of his Cheshire mansion.
Video footage published by The Sun – apparently shot on February 22 – shows Bardsley knocking Rooney to the floor in a playful scrap between the two former United team-mates.
The video was the talk of the airwaves and social media outlets on Sunday morning, but the Red Devils skipper did not seem perturbed by the episode and scored a fine goal in his team’s 3-0 rout against Spurs before celebrating with a fine display of shadow-boxing in the corner.
After the match, United midfielder Maroune Fellaini revealed Rooney had delivered a rousing speech to the squad on the eve of the game – and it clearly worked.
“It was a very important speech,” the Belgium international told BBC.
United manager Louis van Gaal knew Rooney had given the speech, but was unable to witness it himself as it was in a players-only meeting.
“I was aware of (the speech),” he said.
“The players know this game was of massive importance so I think a captain has to do something to help the players or help the manager or help the club. I was very pleased.”
“I was not in the meeting because the captain has his own privileges.”
When asked in his post-match press conference, the Dutch boss would not be drawn into giving his opinions on the story.
“I think it is a ridiculous world where we live that I have to answer questions (like that),” he said.
“What is this world, twisted? I don’t want to answer questions about such things.”
Rooney enjoyed his goal celebration but was keen to play down the story and bemoaned the fact it had reached the public domain.
“That’s the world we live in today. It’s in my own home, it’s not public, it’s what friends do – they mess around in the house,” he told Sky Sports.
“It was a couple of mates in a private house, and somehow it’s managed to get on the front page of a national newspaper.”