Ferguson was present in the directors' box for the first time since his retirement in May after recovering from a hip operation.
And the Scot was watching on as Rooney stamped his mark on a comfortable afternoon for United, netting his first goal since March 10 minutes from time after Robin van Persie had put the hosts ahead with a controversial penalty just before the interval that led to Kagisho Dikgacoi's dismissal.
It represented David Moyes' first victory at the stadium he now calls home and, after two games without a win, allows him to approach a significant week in confident mood as United face Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League on Monday before next Sunday's Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.
Had Ferguson remained in his job, it is hard to see how Rooney would have still been at the club such was the deterioration in their relationship. It is the Scot's presence in the background that is said to have made the striker think so hard about his future.
With the transfer window closed there can be no more talk of Chelsea, or anyone else for that matter.
And typically in such circumstances, Rooney is able to concentrate fully on his football which is, after all, what he is best at.
Sporting a rather strange cushioned head band to protect the wound inflicted by Phil Jones immediately prior to the international break, at long range Rooney looked a bit like a Roman emperor.
He was certainly a source of goals though and it was Rooney's long ball over the Crystal Palace defence that Van Persie cushioned on his chest, then crashed against the crossbar.
It was the best chance United had created up to that point, their opportunities being limited to long-range strikes from Michael Carrick, Fabio - on his first league start since November 2011 - and Rooney, only the first of which tested Julian Speroni.