Jose Mourinho says Wayne Rooney returned from England duty damaged by what the Manchester United manager believes was over-the-top criticism.
In the public eye since bursting onto the scene as a teenager, a lot has changed in that journey from precocious talent to record-breaking 30-year-old captain of club and country.
Despite being the subject of scrutiny for so long, Rooney’s place in the both sides, never mind position, has rarely been so fiercely debated.
The United captain this week said he ignores most of the “rubbish” about him, but Mourinho thinks some of the talk has impacted his form since returning from England’s unconvincing start to life under Sam Allardyce.
Rooney failed to impress in this month’s late 1-0 win against Slovakia, after which Allardyce curiously suggested that he had deferred to his skipper over where he played, even expressing surprise at how deep he dropped.
Questions over his role and capabilities have continued since returning to United, with Mourinho noticing a marked change.
“Honestly, I think there was a Wayne before the Slovakia-England and a Wayne after the Slovakia-England,” he said. “And I am not blaming Sam, not at all.
“I am blaming the people that after the England-Slovakia was, in my opinion, too strong with somebody that is a very important player in the history of English football, is the captain of England, is the record of goals, is almost the record of matches.
“I think it was too much but I still think, that a big boy like he is, he has to face it in a strong way.”
Put to Mourinho that people expect Rooney to be strong enough to deal with, even driven on by it, he added: “That’s what he tries every time. When he is on the pitch, he gives 100 percent. Always, always.”
Mourinho knows just as well as anyone the scrutiny that comes with being a high-profile individual in the most popular league in the world.
The Portuguese even poked fun at recent criticism of him ahead of champions Leicester’s visit to Old Trafford, but knows everyone takes such talk in different ways.
“Everyone is a different person,” Mourinho said. “Everyone analyses in a different way.
“Some they read every word, some they don’t read. It depends. Some are affected by it, some are not.
“I think many times you — when I say ‘you,’ I say media and Einsteins — you forget that there are family and kids and parents and wives and girlfriends.
“People forget that and even that people react in different ways. The way they react can also affect the way the professional reacts.
“Of course, I cannot be in their heads to try and analyse what they feel and the way they feel it.
“I just feel that it’s part of the job and you have to look at in this way.
“It’s part of the job, it’s part of your culture, it’s part of the culture of this country.
“In spite of not being English — I am for here many years — I know one of the reasons of the English disaster over the years in the Euros and in the World Cups, but I still think it’s part of the job.
“You have to cope with it, you have to realise that you are very lucky to be in our position.
“You must be very lucky to be Man United manager, Man United player, Man United physio, Man United doctor, Man United kit man. You have to be very lucky, so feel good and fight hard.”
Mourinho says he wants to protect his players from external criticism, although recently conveyed his public disapproval about some of his players’ performances.
Rooney appears to be a different case to the likes of Jesse Lingard, Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but his manager says there will no special privileges afforded to him — something predecessor Louis van Gaal said the skipper had.
“No, not at all,” he said. “He is my captain, he is the club captain, he is the players’ captain and that is difficult because sometimes you are the club captain because you have lots of years in the club.
“Sometimes you are the manager’s captain because the manager likes you very, very much, sometimes you are the players’ but not the manager’s one.
“Wayne is the captain of the club, the manager and the players — he is trusted by the players, he is trusted by myself and he represents the club in a fantastic way as a player and person and what is now socially.
“Football is a different story. Football everyone is the same and if he has to go on the bench, he goes on the bench. If he has to stay at home, he stays at home, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t trust him or you have a problem [with him]. Not at all.
“We have no problems. He is our captain but, of course, no privilege, he is like anyone else.”