All this back-and-forth sniping from England striker Wayne Rooney and former Three Lions manager Fabio Capello really is unbecoming. It looks and smells like sour grapes – for two very different reasons, but sour grapes nonetheless.
But since they started it ….
Capello, who was in charge of England until earlier this year, told an Italian newspaper that Rooney only seems to play at his best when he’s in the Manchester United kit.
“After seeing the latest (England) game, I think Rooney only understands Scottish,” said Capello, when asked to comment on England’s quarterfinal loss to Italy. Care to explain a little further, Fabio?
“He only plays well in Manchester where Sir Alex Ferguson speaks Scottish.”
Ah, “Scottish.” That’s the one Mike Myers speaks in all those funny skits and movies, right?
Capello got himself in an Italian twist because Rooney said the England camp was better under Roy Hodgson because there are no longer any communication problems or “words lost in translation.”
Two kids in the sandbox, arguing over the pale and plastic shovel.
So, who is right? Neither.
Remember, Rooney wasn’t always at full-Rooney during the recently completed Premiership campaign. Ferguson even complained of Rooney’s unfocused performances in the closing weeks, how the striker lacked the requisite bite, the very edge that makes Rooney a special talent.
And if Rooney doesn’t always rise to league-level best when playing for the England shirt – well, there’s a long and distinguished list of similar men. It’s not a “Rooney condition,” it’s the “England condition,” the debilitating pressure and the terrible burden of unrealistic expectation that cracks these guys.
And doesn’t that help explain any Capello shortcomings? Rooney would have to remind us what those were, by the way. Capello got England to the European Championship, where England proved to be exactly what we all thought: a slightly above average team in the field.
Daily Telegraph columnist Mark Ogden had a good take on the verbal firefight:
The difference between Ferguson and Capello, however, is that the United manager will work on Rooney every day and get under his skin in a way that Capello never could.
Ferguson also had better players at his disposal to help elevate Rooney’s performances. More often than not, Rooney takes a step down in quality when he joins up with the England squad.
That is the heart of it. The England talent just isn’t there right now to be more – but everyone keeps straining to say it some other way.