Wayne Rooney lets off steam with verbal volley
Twelve months of pent-up frustration borne out of media criticism and a nosedive in form burst out of Wayne Rooney when the Manchester United striker delivered an expletive-laced outburst that shocked a worldwide TV audience.
Rooney showed his best and worst in a 15-minute span at Upton Park on Saturday, scoring a quickfire hat trick to earn United a crucial 4-2 win over Premier League rival West Ham but then spewing vitriol into a television camera.
The incident, which resulted in Rooney being charged by England's Football Association on Monday for the use of offensive, insulting and/or abusive language, demonstrated that the striker could be returning to form just at the right time for United. The team is chasing the league, FA Cup and Champions League trophies this season.
However, it also showed a player under severe pressure after a hectic year both on and off the pitch, when his personal life came under intense scrutiny, his sensational form of last season dipped horribly and he came close to quitting the club that signed him for 26.5 million pounds (then more than $40 million) in 2004.
The start of Rooney's woes can be charted back to just more than a year ago, on the night he twisted his ankle in the first leg of United's Champions League quarterfinal loss to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
At that time, with 35 goals in all competitions, the England striker was being talked up - at least by the British media - as one of the three best players in the world along with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
He has not rediscovered that form, though, and a series of injury setbacks have hampered his progress. A disappointing World Cup campaign with England in South Africa was followed by a lackluster first half of the 2010-11 Premier League season when he scored just one goal - and that from the penalty spot.
In the midst of all that were tabloid allegations that he cheated on his then-pregnant wife with a prostitute, resulting in Rooney being on both the front and back of most newspapers.
Then came his bombshell announcement, around the time his relationship with United manager Alex Ferguson was appearing to be strained, that he wanted to leave Old Trafford.
Rooney was eventually talked around by Ferguson and club officials, and signed a lucrative five-year contract in October worth a reported 150,000 pounds ($235,000) per week.
Only in the last couple of months has he started to prove he is worth those kind of sums, but it is rare to see Rooney playing with a smile on his face, even when he scores a 15-minute hat trick to keep his team on course for a record 19th English title.
Rooney was sanctioned for swearing into a television camera while celebrating his third goal against West Ham, not your average reaction when scoring your first three-goal haul in nearly 15 months.
''Why is he so angry?'' Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said Monday. ''Why do these young footballers have to be so angry with the world? They make hundreds of thousands of pounds. He's a silly boy for doing what he did.''
The profane display appeared to show a man letting off steam and screaming at his critics, some of whom were saying the world had already seen the best of the striker.
Rooney issued an immediate apology, via a club statement, acknowledging his actions may have caused offense to ''any parents or children that were watching.''
But the British media still targeted Rooney the following day with back-page headlines ranging from ''Rood Yob'' to ''Shame on Roo'' and ''Red Devil Turns Air Blue.''
Teammate Rio Ferdinand called for the media to lay off the criticism of Rooney.
''Newspapers+radio,come on give wayne a break he knows what he did was wrong and he has apologised,spoke 2 him this morning+genuinely sorry..'' Ferdinand posted Sunday on his Twitter account.
More importantly for United, though, is whether Rooney can keep up his improved form of late, which has seen him score nine goals since the start of February.
United has managed to stay on course for the treble without a fit and firing Rooney. With their star player back in form, United will be an even more dangerous proposition in the final two months of the season.