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Ferdinand rises to Rooney defence

Published: Tuesday 20 September 2005, 18.51CET
Even before he was voted FIFPro Young Player of the Year, Wayne Rooney had received a ringing endorsement from team-mate Rio Ferdinand.
by Graham Hunter

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Published: Tuesday 20 September 2005, 18.51CET

Ferdinand rises to Rooney defence

Even before he was voted FIFPro Young Player of the Year, Wayne Rooney had received a ringing endorsement from team-mate Rio Ferdinand.
Even before his coronation as FIFPro World Young Player of the Year, Manchester United FC striker Wayne Rooney had received a ringing endorsement from team-mate Rio Ferdinand following criticism of the teenager's temperament.

Ferdinand defence
Rooney's red card in United's opening UEFA Champions League Group D game at Villarreal CF last week had prompted pundits once again to question the English international's ability to keep his cool. Ferdinand, however, took up the cudgels on behalf of the 19-year-old who, he insists, has calmed down since moving to Old Trafford from Everton FC in summer 2004.

'On the edge'
"Wayne has worked very hard on his discipline and improved it no end since coming to United," Ferdinand told uefa.com. "He plays on the edge and that is important to his impact on a game, but Wayne is already being booked less regularly for United than he was at Everton."

Second yellow
Rooney's decoration by FIFPro provided proof of how his fellow players appreciate the Liverpudlian's rare talent, but referee Kim Milton Nielsen was less impressed when the forward ironically applauded his decision to book him against Villarreal, inviting a second yellow.

Beckham dismissal
It was not the Dane's first experience of dismissing an English golden boy. At the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, Nielsen red-carded David Beckham for retaliating to Diego Simeone's challenge in a game against Argentina. England subsequently lost, and Beckham was harshly blamed by many for the nation's failure to progress.

Wilkins incident
That moment of petulance was almost unprecedented in England matches. One previous comparable incident came when another former United player, Ray Wilkins, was sent off for angrily throwing the ball at referee Gabriel González during a goalless draw against Morocco at the 1986 World Cup.

Fiery talents
United have often benefited from having volatile players in their squad. George Best's billing as Europe's finest glossed over his more excitable moments, while Old Trafford's greatest modern legend, Eric Cantona, often allowed his temper to get the better of him.

Short fuse
However, Rooney's red mist and decision to insult the Danish official suggested the youngster's short fuse could pose a risk to his footballing development - notwithstanding his primary responsibility to the club paying his wages.

English upset
The week before the Villarreal game, England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson had stated that Rooney's booking and total loss of composure was, in his view, a major factor in Northern Ireland's 1-0 win against their much more powerful FIFA World Cup qualifying rivals on 7 September.

Improved statistics
Angry though he might have been at Rooney's sending-off in Spain, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has remained loyal to the striker. And with Ferdinand also coming to his defence, it is worth pointing out that last season he collected seven bookings for United compared to eleven for Everton in 2003/04.

Crucial role
Nonetheless, there is work to be done before Rooney's temperament is on a par with his use of the ball, positional sense and finishing. In this respect, Nielsen may yet play a part in that aspect of his development as he did in Beckham's. The England captain's French nadir proved to be vital to his maturing from impetuous youth to consummate professional.

'Great honour'
For all the rough edges, though, Rooney's abilities will continue to win admirers - with team-mates and opponents alike heading the list. As the forward acknowledged last night: "I love playing football, I enjoy it and I want to win every game. It is a great honour to be spotted by your fellow professionals."

Last updated: 20/09/05 18.31CET

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