MANCHESTER, March 16- Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal refused to comment on Wayne Rooney’s boxing antics, but praised his captain for helping to inspire his side to a crucial 3-0 win over Premier League top-four rivals Tottenham.
A Sunday newspaper story claimed that Rooney had been knocked out by former United defender Phil Bardsley in a supposedly friendly boxing bout at Rooney’s house last month.
The England and United captain responded by throwing a flurry of punches and falling to the turf as if knocked down as he celebrated scoring the third goal against Tottenham which left the Londoners out for the count at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Van Gaal did not see the funny side of the story, saying: “In what a world we live that we are talking about such a thing – that a newspaper paid a lot for a video and I am answering questions about that. What is this world, twisted? I don’t want to answer questions about such things.”
But the Dutchman applauded Rooney for a speech he made to his team-mates the night before United produced their best performance of the season to overwhelm Tottenham and go five points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool, who play at Swansea on Monday before hosting van Gaal’s men next weekend.
“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,” van Gaal said.
“We have waited a long time for such a victory. The performance was very good against a very good team, so I am pleased.
“We played like a team and were very determined and it is nice after a defeat against Arsenal that you can do that in the next game like this, a massive important game against a competitor, so I am very pleased with the players.
“It is a rat race and we are now two points from the second position.
“We have to look step by step and the next game is Liverpool. I believe Manchester United has not won too often the games in Liverpool.”
– Private life –
Tottenham had won on their previous two visits to Old Trafford, but were out of the game by the 34th minute after goals from Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Rooney, who scored for the 19th time this season, then insisted the latest headlines about his private life had not affected his performance.
“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,” Rooney said.
“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.
“I’ve just been focused on the game, it’s more interesting for other people rather than for me. You’ve seen today, I’ve done a professional job and helped my team win 3-0.”
Tottenham had won five of their previous seven league games and could have gone level on points with United with another victory.
Mauricio Pochettino admitted they had produced one of their worst performances of the season, but the Tottenham manager has not given up on a top-four finish.
“I am not disappointed with the result because it is a consequence of our poor performance,” Pochettino said.
“We started the game very slowly physically and mentally and I don’t understand why because we were ready to compete.
“The first half was poor and it is difficult to come back from 3-0. You can lose here but our performance was poor.
“We need to try and analyse and fix that. I don’t remember when was the last time we had a similar performance.
“We are in a position where all is possible. It is very difficult because we are competing with five sides like Manchester United.”