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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Rooney takes the breath away

By Neil Warnock
Sheff Utd boss and BBC Sport columnist

Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring against Fenerbahce
When you are talking about players like Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy instinct takes over
Wayne Rooney is so mentally strong that he can cope with anything - nothing fazes him.

His hat-trick on his Manchester United debut proves this.

He might only be 18 but he has the mental strength of a 40-year-old when it comes to playing football.

I also think he has made an excellent decision in joining Sir Alex Ferguson at this stage of his career.

Sir Alex is used to dealing with players who will go on to become icons of the game.

And given all the off-the-field stories about Rooney that have been in the newspapers of late, the guidance the United manager will give him over the coming years will be more important than anything.

From my own point of view it seems that the older age group of managers realise that although young players must be given some leeway, they must to some degree be treated like their own children.

We have to be there on call because young lads occasionally need an arm around them.

A youngster might be having a bad time doing a session shooting at goal.

Instead of letting him carry on - and in the process destroying his confidence - I might just pull him to one side and talk to him about something entirely different to take his mind off it.

It is about making them aware that you are available to talk to - rather than just being seen as the boss, some kind of aloof figure.

Young players often bottle up their problems - it is important to make them aware they can share them.

As you could see against Fenerbahce, Rooney does not need much coaching.

Some of the coaching sessions we have at Sheffield United focus on the basics - when and where to make runs, and the like.

But when you are talking about players like Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy, instinct takes over.

You can put sessions on so they develop an understanding but at that level it comes naturally.

Senior players like Gary Neville will play a big role in Rooney's development.

Sir Alex will be working more on other aspects of the teenager's life.

When you are a top player the hangers-on increase 20-fold and you have to be careful - everyone wants a piece of you.

There were one or two moments involving Michael Brown when he was at Sheffield United.

A couple of things happened off the field and because of who he was, he was unfairly getting the blame.

I explained that when he is out with four or five normal lads and something occurs he is the only one who will grab the headlines whether it is his fault or theirs.

It is about responsibility and making players aware of the extent to which the media is after stories.

Senior players are very important in these matters as they often get the first whiff of anything.

Players like Gary Neville - who I think will go on to make an excellent manager - will play a big role in Rooney's development.

They will do a lot of Sir Alex's work for him in the dressing room just as David Kelly used to for me at Sheffield United.

Talking of David, I'd like to finish this week by wishing him all the best in his new role as assistant manager at Preston North End.

He has known new North End boss Billy Davies for 20 years and with his departure it gives Stuart McCall the chance to develop his coaching skills.




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