Ferguson, who is yet to speak publicly about the current situation with Rooney, brought his striker on with 20 minutes remaining, after United had squandered a two-goal lead, and asked him to play on the left wing.
Former United defender Steve Bruce, now the manager of Sunderland, said he was convinced Ferguson words and actions in recent weeks had been intended to try to protect Rooney.
"He's been trying to keep him out of the spotlight, trying to keep him under the radar, trying to protect him in his way," Bruce told BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek.
"We all know Wayne Rooney is a fantastic footballer and it's the first time in his career he's had this little sort of blip. Make no mistake, he'll be back - he's our best talent in this country and it's about time we tried to protect him and look after him."
However, Spanish giants Real Madrid are rumoured to be interested in Rooney, who has not scored for United from open play since March.
Rooney's former club-mate Cristiano Ronaldo moved to the Bernabeu in the summer of 2009 and the side has numerous striking options in Gonzalo Higuain, Angel di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Karim Benzema.
On Monday, Real director general Jorge Valdano appeared to quash speculation of an imminent move for Rooney but did not rule one out.
He told Telemadrid:
"The question is, who would we move aside if we signed another striker? In January, there will be neither ins nor outs. June is a long way away."
Manchester City, Chelsea and Real's arch-rivals Barcelona are also rumoured to be interested in Rooney, whose value is likely to drop as his contract nears expiration.
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