Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Alan Hansen: Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney is risking it all if he doesn't learn to control his temper

How Wayne Rooney reacts to the fall-out from his red card against Montenegro could be a defining moment in his career, but it is Sir Alex Ferguson, rather than Fabio Capello, who has to get to grips with the player’s temper.

Alan Hansen: Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney is risking it all if he doesn't learn to control temper
Red mist: Wayne Rooney was sent off against Montenegro for kicking out, meaning that he will miss the start of England's Euro 2012 campaign Photo: AP
Rooney may have been frustrated during the Montenegro game, but he was stupid to do what he did against a side who were no better than a pub team.
When he returns to Manchester United on Monday morning, however, there can be no thoughts of, ‘let’s forget about it because it happened with England’. That is because Rooney has now put even more pressure on himself and, as a result, his team.
Opposing players, supporters and even referees will be targeting Rooney now more than ever because he has shown again that he remains prone to being let down by his suspect temperament.
The pressure on him is big enough as it is because he is United and England’s best player, but when the best player has a questionable temperament, it can never be easy.
Wayne is 26 in a couple of weeks’ time, so he should now be mature enough to get these problems out of his system, but we still don’t know whether that will ever happen. And while the change has to come from within, the guidance must come from his club manager rather than his international manager.
Publicly, he will back his player 100 per cent because his value to United is just as great as it is to England. Rooney will be given leeway because of that.
Roy Keane, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo have all benefited from similar treatment in the past, but great players earn that right and Rooney has done that with United.
Sir Alex knows, however, that there are different ways to deal with different people. The top managers all have that ability to judge a player’s character and deal with him in the most appropriate manner.
It might be an arm around the shoulder, a major kick up the backside or a quiet word in the ear or even a combination of the three, but whichever way Ferguson goes, the rhetoric will be strong because there is no other way to go about it.
When Cantona jumped into the crowd at Selhurst Park in 1995, it was such a bad incident that Ferguson had to make it clear that things had to change and there could be no repeat of anything like it again.
Rooney is a different situation because you cannot compare attacking a supporter with a stupid kick at an opposing player.
But there is no doubt that, if you line up all of Wayne’s disciplinary misdemeanours, sooner or later they are going to have an effect and that is why he needs to get a grip on his temper.
United go to Anfield to face Liverpool on Saturday, so there will be no hiding place for him. As United’s best player, and also an Evertonian, it must be a wonderful prospect to have to go to Anfield at the end of a bad week!
Sir Alex will be conscious of what awaits Rooney this weekend, but he will deal with it privately and make sure the player is prepared for the occasion. But wherever he plays, Rooney knows he will be targeted because the nature of the game is to exploit any possible weakness.
That has always been a fact of life and players will continue to go out to niggle a player with a suspect temperament in an effort to trigger the red mist.
There are also plenty of referees with an ego and they will be looking for any reason to come down hard on him. As a result, he has to be whiter than white, especially in the Champions League and with England.
Can he change? Nobody can answer that one, but Wayne has confounded his critics in the past by returning from his post-World Cup slump as arguably a better player than before.
It has been six months since his last incident, when he was lucky to escape a ban for clashing with Wigan’s James McCarthy, so his flashpoints are not coming every week.
But if Rooney cannot learn from his latest red card, the pressure on him risks becoming intolerable and it is something that he will have to face up to.
Alan Hansen