Beckham backs fiery Rooney

David Beckham is confident that Wayne Rooney will not allow his combustible temperament to ruin his chances of starring at next summer’s World Cup.

Beckham knows only too well the price of reacting to provocation, having been sent off against Argentina for kicking out at Diego Simeone and then blamed for England’s exit from France 1998.

But he believes Rooney, who turned 20 last month, will be mature enough not to react in the same way to the attempts to provoke him that are inevitable in Germany.

“Many teams and players will try to wind Wayne Rooney up, but he can handle that,” Beckham said ahead of England’s friendly meeting with Argentina in Geneva on Saturday evening.

“He’s a great talent and I think he’s above all that. We’ve had a few problems with [the Argentinian] players and the team, but that’s just the way it is. The players are all aware that this is a test of character for us not to react.”

Rooney’s recent record, though, does not necessarily warrant such confidence.

He was sent off in Manchester United’s Champions League game against the Spanish side Villarreal—a team that includes three Argentinian players—for sarcastically applauding the referee Kim Milton Nielsen, then had to be substituted for his own good after losing his temper in an England friendly against Spain last season, and was fortunate not to be sent off in September’s World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland.

Notably, in that match in Belfast, Beckham’s efforts to soothe Rooney were met with hostility so obvious that the United forward flew to Madrid to clear the air with his international captain soon after.

Beckham, though, insisted that too much had been made of that incident.

“In games these things happen,” he said. “Players react, and when you’re frustrated, you react in different ways.

“Things have been blown out of proportion. We [Rooney and Beckham] have not got a problem.”

Beckham even echoed head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson’s line that to calm Rooney’s temper is to diminish him as a player.

“We’d prefer it to have been different [in Belfast], but in a way it’s good because you know he has a lot of passion.”

Eriksson agreed that the match against Argentina will provide a good test for Rooney.

“I’m not worried [about his temperament],” said the Swede. “I’m going to speak to all the players together. It’s important to play good football, and it’s important to finish with 11 players.”

For Eriksson, with the qualifiers successfully negotiated, Saturday’s match represents the beginning of his preparations for next summer’s World Cup finals, and the extra seriousness with which he is approaching the friendly was evident in his determination that club managers should not withdraw their players from the game, as Alex Ferguson was reported as having threatened to do.

When Eriksson telephoned the Manchester United manager, though, he claimed that had never been his intention.

“I wrote all the managers a letter,” Eriksson said. “I explained this is a real game. I said this is the second-last friendly during the Premiership season and I want to take this match very seriously.”—Sapa-AFP

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