LONDON - Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, unhappy about a newspaper story suggesting he was punched unconscious by a fellow Premier League player in his kitchen, responded in knockout fashion against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Rooney was left distinctly unimpressed that what he described as a private joke with a few friends ended up on the front page of a national newspaper, which also had a video of the episode on its website.
Yet the United captain reckoned he had shown his professionalism by then leading his team to a handsome 3-0 win over fellow top-four contenders Spurs at Old Trafford, sealed by his own splendid goal which he celebrated by throwing a few shadow punches and then tumbling on to his back.
His comical theatrics earned him delighted laughter at the Theatre of Dreams but neither Rooney, nor United manager Louis van Gaal, found the furore which had prompted the act anything to smile about. "What, is this world twisted?" Van Gaal roared to a Sky Sports interviewer.
The front page story suggested Rooney had been knocked unconscious by his friend, Stoke City player Phil Bardsley, in a boxing bout in his kitchen during a "wild lads' night in". It featured a link to an accompanying video.
Rooney told Sky Sports: "That's the world we live in today I think. It was a few mates in a private house, which has somehow managed to go on the front page of a national newspaper.
It was me and a few friends joking around. "It was in my own home so it's not public, though it's got out. It's what friends do.
You mess around in a house and unfortunately it made the front page of the newspaper." Rooney reckoned he had not let the nonsense affect him - and his excellent performance suggested as much with the victory moving fourth-placed United on to 56 points from 29 games.
"I've been focused on the game. I think it (the story) is more interesting for other people rather than myself. You've seen today, I've done a professional job, got on with the game and helped this team win 3-0."
Van Gaal, predictably, was even more blunt. "I cannot imagine we're talking about such a thing, that a newspaper are paying a lot for a video and that I have to answer questions about that. I don't want to answer this question because I think it is ridiculous that we have to talk about such things."