Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said soccer players are now subject to media “sensationalism” to a degree that was reserved for Hollywood actors when he first joined the club more than 25 years ago.
“They face situations wherever they go that they are in the spotlight, that’s the unfortunate thing for the modern footballer,” Ferguson told reporters in Zurich, where he’s a nominee for FIFA’s coach of the year award. “If you go back 25 years ago it was all the young actors from film who were getting attention.”
Ferguson yesterday expressed concern that United’s Wayne Rooney has become a target for the U.K.’s media in the same way that former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne was during his playing career. Gascoigne has battled alcohol and mental illness for much of the past decade.
Three days ago, United and Rooney issued denials over a story in the Independent newspaper that the player would be sold because of a dispute with Ferguson. Rooney threatened to leave in October 2010 before signing a new contract after putting out a statement questioning United’s ability to attract top players.
The growth of satellite television and dedicated websites has made it harder for newspapers to find exclusive content and led to the “sensationalism that you see in journalism today,” Ferguson said.
His team beat Premier League leader Manchester City 3-2 in the F.A. Cup yesterday, with Rooney scoring twice. City captain Vincent Kompany was red-carded in the 12th minute of the match, and manager Roberto Mancini claimed Rooney pressured the referee to send off the player. City leads United in England’s Premier League.
Ferguson said he understood Mancini’s reaction although he said Rooney’s gesture was an instinctive one that’s an “unfortunate part of our game.”
“It’s what happens with players today: they all appeal for opposition players to be sent off,” Ferguson said. “I have no complaints about Wayne.”
Rooney joined United in 2004 for 25.6 million pounds ($39.5 million), a then world record fee for a teenager. Since then the club has won four league titles and a Champions League.
Newspaper reports said he was left out of the team for a game against Blackburn last month for disciplinary reasons.