By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens

Wayne Rooney’s ego was key to his man-of-the-match display against Chelsea, according to Rio Ferdinand.

Rooney’s former Manchester United team-mate has claimed that the skipper would have been humiliated at being demoted to the substitute’s bench for the club’s 2-0 defeat at Stoke on Boxing Day.

England’s record goalscorer has been a first pick for a decade at Old Trafford and suffered the rare experience of being overlooked when Louis van Gaal selected his starting line-up for the Stoke clash.

He was restored to the team on Monday evening, when United dominated an entertaining goal-less draw against Chelsea, with Rooney showing a welcome return to form.

“He is the leader in the team and set the tone,” Ferdinand told BT Sport afterwards. “Straightaway you saw him get on the ball, turn and get people running off him.

“You haven’t seen him do that for a while. It was like the Wayne Rooney of old. His ego would have taken a pounding at being dropped.

“He responded in the right way. It was a much more positive performance from him and the team.”

United are sixth in the Premier League after Monday’s clash of the two big hitters, while Chelsea remain in 14th and a distant 15 points behind fourth place.