It has been another fraught, headline-grabbing spell away with England’s national team for Wayne Rooney. Once again, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho must pick up the pieces.
Rooney is back under United’s control after having been forced to apologise for some late-night revelry while on England duty, when he was pictured – in his England training gear – looking bleary-eyed at a wedding reception at the team hotel on Saturday.
Rooney was criticized by the English Football Association’s chief executive, Martin Glenn, for not setting the “right tone” as England captain, and the striker’s conduct has sparked a fresh wave of negative publicity toward a player who has shown erratic behavior on and off the field earlier in his career. Mourinho said Rooney has been hurt by the negativity toward him.
“Even if you have or if you build a kind of wall around you to try to feel protected from what people write about you or think about you, the comments people make about you, the wall has always points of fragility,” Mourinho said. “It has always some little holes.
“And we are not still, we are flesh and blood. So I think it has an effect.”
Mourinho must be starting to dread Rooney going away with the national team. Two months ago, the United manager said Rooney came back from England duty a different person than when he left after fierce media criticism that he received after his performance in a World Cup qualifying match against Slovakia.
“Honestly, I think there was a Wayne before the Slovakia-England and a Wayne after Slovakia-England,” Mourinho said at the time.
Now, Mourinho faces another fight to get Rooney mentally right, at a time when the striker had got his place back in both United’s and England’s team after a spell of poor form.
“Sometimes (players) come back stronger than when they left us because something positive happens there – good performances, good results,” Mourinho said. “Other times, injuries, sometimes big injuries. Other times frustrations because they didn’t play, because the result was bad.
“In this case we know what didn’t go well, but the national team is a different chapter and a chapter that is closed now until March.”
Mourinho suggested that the England management take better care of Rooney next time he is away with the national team. There were reports in the British media that Mourinho felt let down by the FA for allowing Rooney to stay up late and drink alcohol.
“I learned since I was a kid, if someone lends me something, I have to take care even better than if it was mine,” Mourinho said. “You know, your friend lent you a pencil, you have to take care of the pencil better than if it was your pencil.
“So I think when one day if I become a national-team manager, I will try – try, I am not saying that I will be successful on that – … to build something to protect what is not yours.”
Mourinho also said he feels Rooney has been unfairly singled out for criticism.
“If you go one by one to see where these 23 (England) players were,” the Portuguese coach added, “some of them were in worse places than the hotel bar.”
Rooney’s first game back for United is against Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday.