IRENE, South Africa (AP) — Four years after being sent off as England bowed out of the World Cup, Wayne Rooney and his notoriously short temper are again attracting the attention of referees.
Rooney was booked in England's 3-0 win over local team Platinum Stars on Monday after referee Jeff Selogilwe claimed the striker swore at him.
It came four days before England opens its World Cup campaign against the United States — its first match at soccer's biggest tournament since losing in the 2006 quarterfinals to Portugal after Rooney was sent off for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho.
While the Americans aren't saying publicly they will try to wind up the 24-year-old Rooney on Saturday, they won't be complaining if he explodes in Rustenburg.
"You try to make his day difficult and if a guy has as much fire as he has then maybe those kind of things come out," said United States defender Jay DeMerit, who is also the captain at Watford. "It's not necessarily something you try to do because then you're thinking of the wrong things when it comes to on-the-field activities.
"It's not about kicking him when no one is looking or using tactics to try to wind him up ... If he brings that stuff out in the way we play against him then that's good."
"He's a player who gives it all on the pitch — he's so committed," Holden said at the United States base on a farm in Irene, near Pretoria. "I think sometimes he wants to win so badly that he goes into challenges that he thinks he can win."
In the English press, The Sun questioned whether he could be a "foul-mouthed World Cup liability," while the Daily Mail's headline was "Rooney loses plot."
After being sworn at, Selogilwe said Rooney "must learn to control his temper."
"He is a good player when you see him on the TV, but when you see him on the pitch, he just keeps on insulting the referees," Selogilwe said. "To me it looks like Rooney insults people and fouls other players. If he insults a referee like me then he will use that vulgar language to other referees as well."
Rooney has traveled to South Africa after being plagued by injuries that kept him largely on the sidelines as United missed out on the Premier League and Champions League titles.
"I don't see Wazza having a problem disciplinary-wise at the World Cup at all," said United teammate Rio Ferdinand, whose World Cup campaign was ended through injury. "Wayne's disciplinary record has been magnificent over the last couple of years, since the incident in Germany. He's done so well to get where he is now."
And the Americans are focused on how to prevent Rooney from breaching their back four.
"The key to defending Rooney is to match his work ethic," DeMerit said. "He always works hard and puts you under pressure. If you can match his athleticism and aggressiveness — all those type of things are key to staying with him.
"We understand how much of a talent is, but we have seen even the most talented guys can have a tough day. I've done my best to make his days difficult (previously) and I'm going to have to continue to do that."