When United's team coach pulled up outside Goodison Park, Rooney was nowhere to be seen, having been left in the Lowry by Ferguson.
"We made a decision simply because he gets terrible abuse here," the Scot said, having told reporters 24 hours earlier he would not countenance questions about the player's "private life".
Such pre-emptive action is unprecedented in Ferguson's 24 years at United. When, for instance, Eric Cantona returned to Leeds after forsaking them for United, the build-up focused on the hostile reception awaiting him. Elland Road responded with all the bile it could muster, but Cantona never missed a game there.