Manchester United needed a goal from Michael Owen, now their fourth-choice striker, to scramble a draw at Bolton as they failed to capitalise on Chelsea's defeat. The champions remain three points ahead and to add to Sir Alex Ferguson's frustration Wayne Rooney produced another insipid display before limping off with half-an-hour remaining.
The England striker is expected to be be fit for Champions League duty in Valencia on Wednesday despite aggravating an ankle injury, but he had made little impression during an hour on the pitch at the Reebok and has still to score from open play this season.
Afterwards Kevin Keegan, perhaps the country's first celebrity footballer, warned Rooney that he cannot use media intrusion as an excuse for his continued poor form. The former Newcastle manager said that if the striker sold pictures of his wedding to celebrity magazines, he could not complain if the media turned against him over an alleged encounter with a prostitute. Keegan added that he thought Rooney's confidence "looked shot". He has scored one penalty, against West Ham United, in five appearances for United this season.
"You can't have all the contracts, you can't sell your wedding to magazines and things like that and then suddenly say, 'That's a tap I want to turn on but I want to turn the other one off'," said Keegan, whose advertisements for Brut in the 1970s paved the way for product endorsements by footballers.
Keegan, analysing a game for ESPN, said: "I know from when I played that, if you are advertising boots and all the other stuff, you have to go and make appearances. You are going to appear in the paper. The one thing I would say is keep your home and family out of it. If you don't, you can't then turn around and say there are too many paparazzi around or there is too much publicity. One minute you are courting it, the next minute you are saying, 'I don't want this'."
Keegan also thought the player badly out of touch: "Last year, you would fancy him to put some of his chances into the net. His performance tells me his confidence is shot."
The Bolton manager, Owen Coyle, called for the media to "lay off" the striker: "I don't think what the lad is going through is helping him or his country in the long term. Let the boy go and flourish."Reuse content