Ferguson to 'protect Rooney from public'

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson has drawn parallels between the pressures facing Wayne Rooney and those that afflicted George Best, Paul Gascoigne and, more recently, David Beckham, after recent allegations of nightclub assault made against the Manchester United forward.

Sir Alex Ferguson has drawn parallels between the pressures facing Wayne Rooney and those that afflicted George Best, Paul Gascoigne and, more recently, David Beckham, after recent allegations of nightclub assault made against the Manchester United forward.

Ferguson fears Rooney is now seen as a "golden pot" by unscrupulous members of the public, and called for police action against the 22-year-old student who withdrew his original complaint this week before warning the profile afforded to Rooney means similar future incidents are almost inevitable.

The manager, however, has staunchly defended his player's right to live something approaching the normal life of a 19-year-old and restated his intention to protect Rooney from the excesses of public intrusion while warning of the dangers of placing the player under the same intense scrutiny that ultimately ended the careers of Best and Gascoigne.

Ferguson has been here before having guided Ryan Giggs and Beckham through their formative years although the manager has spoken about the different pitfalls facing players in a world of mobile phone cameras and Footballers Wives.

Ferguson, who eventually tired of the showbusiness trappings surrounding Beckham, has expressed his aggravation at what he sees as indiscriminate prying into the private lives of Rooney and fiancée Colleen McLoughin, although he remains confident the teenager has not been affected by his growing iconic status, a view supported by Rooney's two world-class performances for England against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan, following the nightclub allegations.

"The problem for Wayne Rooney is that you've had George Best, Paul Gascoigne and then David Beckham," Ferguson added. "But now they're not here anymore. So people are looking to feed off someone new. And that person is Wayne Rooney. It's unfair but we understand what goes on.

"We've never had a problem with Wayne since he joined us. He's a fantastic lad, he's a different class of boy. We have experience of protecting young players here like we did with Ryan Giggs and that is exactly what we will do with Wayne."

Ferguson's outburst came after Patrick Hanrahan claimed to have been struck by Rooney in a nightclub in the early hours of 22 March as the player enjoyed a night out with Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown and Roy Carroll four days before England's World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland.

Hanrahan originally insisted that Rooney reacted violently to taunts about his £27m transfer from Everton last August and made a complaint to police after contacting a tabloid newspaper.

But Greater Manchester Police revealed the complaint was withdrawn on Wednesday and the matter was closed, prompting Ferguson to condemn a growing culture that, he says, views high-profile footballers as a potential meal-ticket.

"If you're standing in a bar having a drink with a few mates and a guy comes up shouting and bawling at you, and you ignore him, what more can you do?" Ferguson said. "Wayne is still only 19. What's he going to do, sit in the house all day for the rest of his life and not go out? What happened doesn't surprise me. Human beings are not stupid. People go into nightclubs, they see a footballer and they think 'There's a golden pot here, there's an earner'.

"That's the sad part about it. The guy who alleged this incident with Wayne then turned up at a police station with a reporter. What's going on in this world? The boy should have been charged with [wasting police time]. The club had CCTV which showed nothing happened. It's unbelievable."

Ferguson confirmed the release of six youngsters, Paul Tierney, Ramon Calliste, Ben Collett, David Poole, Steven Hogg and Lee Lawrence, following his decision to disband one of United's reserve sides.

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