When Manchester United signed Wayne Rooney as an 18 year old in 2004, the former Evertonian had the world at his feet. At 16 Rooney had broken onto the scene with an astonishing long range goal against then champions Arsenal and continued to build his reputation with confident and assured performances that were more befitting of someone older than his 16 years. He had England buzzing and thus he won the BBC 2002-2003 young sport personality of the year award.
Rooney was selected for England’s Euro 2004 squad and he did not disappoint grabbing four goals finishing joint second top scorer. It could and probably would have been more if not for him breaking a metatarsal against Portugal in the quarter finals.
Sir Alex Ferguson had seen enough, and outbid Newcastle to snap up the precocious talent despite him still suffering from the injury that cut short his European Championship.
It was more than evident that Rooney had bags of talent and would eventually go on to be a world beater but he also came with extra baggage. He had a burning passion for the game that ordinarily would be praised in such a young player but when it began interfering instead of aid his game, it became an identifiable problem. It would lead to Rooney being carded as well as dismissed multiple times. In November 2004 Wayne Rooney lasted just 42 minutes in a bad tempered ‘friendly’ against Spain before he was subbed off by then England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson to spare him from the red card that was inevitably coming. Then during the 2006 World Cup a frustrated Wayne Rooney was dismissed against Portugal after appearing to stamp on the groin of Ricardo Carvalho.
Sir Alex Ferguson has a way with young players (many believe that if he had succeeded in bringing Paul Gascoigne to Old Trafford, the faded England star would not find himself with the problems he has today) and slowly but surely attempted to improve Wayne Rooney’s discipline whilst not tampering with his passion. Such is Rooney’s love for the game that if the situation arose, he would play the game for free so to interfere with this would be to interfere with Rooney’s style full stop. In his last presser as England manager Sven Göran Eriksson affirmed this when he stated:
“He has a temperament, you have to live with that. I have spoken to him about it in the past but I always said you can’t take the temperament away from Wayne Rooney because then he wouldn’t be that kind of player.”
But under Sir Alex Ferguson what looked like a near impossible task is now being achieved as Rooney has indeed curbed his ways. Before England’s game with Croatia in September Croatian players openly admitted that they would target Wayne Rooney in an attempt to draw his ‘wild side’. Rooney did not rise to their bait, when Mario Mandzukic attempted to amputate Rooney’s legs with a terrible challenge instead of losing his temper as he may have previously, Rooney’s response was to punish Croatia in other ways. He played out of his skin, the creative heart of England’s team as they brushed Croatia aside 5-1 as well grabbing a goal in the process.
Rooney has matured under Ferguson and his marriage to long time girlfriend, Coleen as well as the recent birth of his son Kai can only help further.
He still suffers from occasional outburst and against Besiktas in United’s opening Champions League game after being substituted he threw a tantrum that saw him exchange words with the Besiktas fans behind the dugout. But the outburst again only served to show Rooney’s love for the game, United had been frustrated by their hosts and the game stood at 0-0 when Rooney went off Ferguson put it down to the fact that, ‘He wants to play all the time’.
Rooney’s talent is undeniable and now he is able to keep his temper under check, we are seeing it fully.