Wayne Rooney smoking and urinating in the street: it’s no wonder United hero is out of puff
Lighting up a cigarette, urinating against a wall and singing raucously in the street at dawn, Wayne Rooney looked every bit the boorish England fan instead of the most gifted player in the country.
Indeed, photographs of the 24-year-old striker enjoying a night out in Manchester city centre with his wife, Coleen, and a group of friends at the weekend could not have been more at odds with the image of a professional sportsman.
But this was not Rooney making the most of an extended holiday after the World Cup – a tournament in which he fell woefully short of expectations and railed against his own fans.
This was not Rooney caught in a private moment with family and friends at his luxury £5million mansion in Barbados or the five-star Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas where he and Coleen had already enjoyed more than their fair share of carousing this summer.
This was Rooney after less than a week back in training for Manchester United, and four days away from his first pre-season game.
United fans pinning their hopes on him spearheading the club’s attempt to win back the Premier League title, and England supporters who spent thousands following Rooney and his team-mates on a fruitless campaign around South Africa, could be forgiven for wondering what he is playing at.
It was reported that the group, which included his younger brother, Graham, kicked off the evening with a Chinese meal before moving on to popular Manchester nightspot Panacea, where they were shown to a VIP table.
While the rest drank £250 bottles of vodka, Rooney disappeared out of a back door with some of his friends to smoke rolled-up cigarettes in the street. Hardly the way a Premier League player who will shortly become United’s highest earner on £130,000 a week should be preparing for the new season.
He was even pictured relieving himself against a wall behind a bottle bank when, one would hope, his aim was considerably better than in South Africa where he failed to score a single goal. It was not the best image for a star who banks millions every year from sponsorship deals to project to his legion of young fans.
Although the club closed at 3am, Rooney and Co were then allowed to stay until 5.30am when they spilled out into the street and the player, his arms draped over two friends, joined in a dawn chorus of football songs. Coleen looked less than impressed as she walked along the street barefoot, carrying her high heels, and tried to coax her husband into a waiting taxi.
Her mood is likely to be shared by Sir Alex Ferguson. Quite what he will make of his star player’s behaviour when Rooney is meant to be preparing his body for the rigours of a new Premier League season and European campaign remains to be seen.
United refused to comment yesterday but a manager who clamped down on the party culture at Old Trafford when he first joined the club 24 years ago, and has reprimanded his players on numerous occasions down the years for attracting the wrong kind of headlines, will doubtless take a dim view.
Ferguson allowed Rooney to miss United’s trip to America along with the rest of the club’s World Cup contingent so he could recover from a marathon season which ended with defeat by Germany on June 27, and he will probably have seen the photos of the player living it up in Barbados and Vegas.
But surely a month is long enough for a professional sportsman to let his hair down before getting back to work.
Although Ferguson has confirmed that Rooney will return to action in tomorrow’s friendly against an Irish League XI in Dublin, the United boss is considering easing his striker gradually into the new season.
But what, he might ask, is the point of giving Rooney extra time off when he uses it to abuse his body like this?
England manager Fabio Capello also has cause for concern. His team are in action tomorrow week for the first time since the World Cup when they meet Hungary in a friendly at Wembley, and the Italian is desperate to show those who called for his head that the Euro 2012 campaign will herald an exciting new era for the national team.
Rooney is absolutely central to those plans, and the sight of him out on the town until all hours will not go down well with the disciplinarian.
The striker’s boredom under Capello’s rigid regime is believed to have contributed to his discontent in South Africa. The new father did not appreciate being confined to the team hotel for long periods and missed his nine-month-old son Kai.
It went some way to explaining why a player who had given everything for his club and scored 34 goals in all competitions last season looked so out of sorts for his country, even snapping angrily at fans who booed England off after the 0-0 draw with Algeria.
However, Rooney’s vision of himself as a father in an interview he gave earlier this year is very different to the photographs that appeared on Monday.
‘It has been a life-changing experience,’ he said. ‘Now I have someone to look after and I just want to be with Kai and Coleen as much as possible.
‘Becoming a dad means you have to be a role model for your son and be someone he can look up to. I don’t go out clubbing very much any more, maybe only a couple of times a year. I’m now in bed by 10.30pm – it used to be 1am.
‘The lifestyle I lead as a footballer means I am always in the spotlight, so the perfect day for me is to come home from training and stay in the house with Coleen and the baby and just do normal things.’
A spokesman for Rooney also refused to comment yesterday, mindful no doubt that the photographs speak for themselves.