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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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By ESPN Staff

Ferguson rubbishes Rooney gambling allegations

Sir Alex Ferguson has dismissed allegations that star striker Wayne Rooney has run up gambling debts of £700,000.

The Manchester United manager has often compared Rooney to George Best, Paul Gascoigne and David Beckham for the voracious way his life is held open for public consumption by the media and Ferguson could barely disguise his contempt for the latest controversy to surround the 20-year-old.

And, while Rooney kept himself to a terse 'look at my performance today and judge yourself', when asked whether the headlines had affected him during a man-of-the-match display in this afternoon's 2-0 win over Arsenal, Ferguson came out swinging on his player's behalf.

'It is pathetic,' said Ferguson. 'We have had this with George Best, we had it with Paul Gascoigne and we had it with David Beckham.

'We know Wayne Rooney. It is rubbish and we shall dismiss it the best we can.'

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and PFA deputy chief executive Mick McGuire are concerned enough about the allegations to make it their business to speak with Rooney and his advisers about the situation early next week.

It has been claimed Rooney's debts have triggered a rift in the England camp, specifically between the former Everton star and his strike partner Michael Owen, whose business associate it is alleged to whom the money is owed.

Several of Rooney's England team-mates are also reported to have embarked on heavy gambling stints, although none have accrued losses to such an extreme figure.

Eriksson's mission - through informal chats - will be to determine whether any issues have arisen between players as a consequence.

If it does transpire there is unrest, the Swede would seek to nip the problem in the bud, given only five weeks remain until England's World Cup squad travel to southern Portugal for a pre-tournament training camp.

'The FA would like to make it clear we are unaware of any problems in the England team dressing room due to issues surrounding gambling or anything else come to that,' said FA director of communications Adrian Bevington.

'Under Sven the England team have enjoyed a fantastic spirit within the camp, a fact that is regularly made by the players publicly.

'This spirit has ensured qualification to three consecutive tournaments.

'However, on being made aware of these allegations by the Sunday Mirror we believe England head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will speak to the players allegedly involved to clarify the facts.

'It's important the fans know everyone connected to the FA and the England team are determined to do all they can to achieve success in Germany this summer.'

Rooney's management company, Proactive, have refused to discuss the allegations, while McGuire - although keen to play down the effect they have on the youngster's status as a role model - confirmed the players' union will offer any assistance required.

He said: 'If these claims are true, then it would be a concern to us. Notwithstanding his salary levels, it would be a concern if any member of our organisation accrued a debt of this size.

'I know Wayne well and know he is excellent support structures around him, both in terms of his advisers and Manchester United as a club.

'But we will be in touch with his advisers early in the week to see if there is any truth in what has been reported and if there is anything we can do to help.'

In the aftermath of his side's Old Trafford defeat, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger also had his say, although he was keen to stay away from the realms of controversy.

'I have no concern about gambling,' he said. 'As long as it is permitted by the rules of government, you cannot criticise people for doing it.

'When you earn money, you are free to use it as you like. Unless someone does something which is not allowed by the rules, you have to respect that.'