The three players were dropped for our next game against Blackburn, amidst rumours that they were unable to train properly, presumably due to a hangover.
United went on to lose that game, with Rafael and Park starting as our central midfielders. When you consider United then lost the title on goal difference, that home defeat to a team that was eventually relegated is fairly painful to recall. After going 2-0 down, Dimitar Berbatov scored two goals in ten minutes to level the score, only for Hanley to score a late winner.
Wayne Rooney, in his new book, has reflected on what happened, suggesting the high standards of the manager at this club is what lead him to being dropped.
I’m happy at Manchester United, despite the downs that sometimes take place at a football club. Like when we stuff Wigan 5-0 on Boxing Day. I go out for dinner with a few of the lads, and our other halves, to a hotel. The next day, the manager pulls me up and tells me he’s not happy and doesn’t feel I’ve trained properly. He fines me, but there’s worse to come. I’m dropped for the next game, on New Year’s Eve, against Blackburn. At a lot of clubs, people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at players having a night out six days before a game. But that’s the difference at Manchester United and a mark of the high standards the manager demands. It’s a big deal, another lesson learned.
The following week I had to sit in the stands and watch us lose 3-2 to Blackburn. It’s the worst feeling when that happens. It was terrible. Blackburn looked certainties for relegation, yet we were worse than them. As I watched I feel desperate and helpless, just like all the other United fans watching the defeat unfold.