Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney has admitted that he would frequently ‘lock himself away’ and drink to cope with the pressure that had engulfed his career from the very beginning.
Rooney burst onto the scene at the age of 16 with Everton and was quickly hailed as one of the greatest English talents of all time. Within two years he was at Manchester United as the most expensive teenager in the world and an established England international.
Rooney’s career went on to deliver goal records for club and country, as well as individual accolades and 12 major trophies, including Premier League and Champions League titles.
His penchant for a drink over the years is not new information – it has been the source of plenty of tabloid headlines and even a drink-driving conviction as recently as 2017 – but Rooney has revealed the darker source of what he has described as ‘self-binges’ during his playing career.
“There were times you’d get a couple of days off from football and I would actually lock myself away and just drink, to try to take all that away from my mind,” the now 36-year-old told The Times.
“People might know I liked a drink at times or went out, but there was a lot more to it than just that. It was what was going on in my head.”
Rooney described the drinking as a way to cope with ‘a build-up of everything’, whether that be pressure over playing for England or Manchester United, or reporting on his personal life. He also attributes his upbringing as a reason he kept it to himself.
“Growing up on a council estate, you would never actually go and speak to anyone,” he said.
Rooney has even admitted that it might have contributed to a premature end to his playing career. He left Manchester United at the age of 31, having seen his performance level start to drop over the preceding two seasons, and left the Premier League for good at 32.
Being able to have ‘constant’ binges during his best years and get away with it because it wasn’t affecting his performances on the pitch became a problem. That was because it didn’t stay that way.
“...[you] think you can get away with it and that had an impact on me on the back end of my time at Man Utd because you can’t do that as an athlete,” Rooney said.
Rooney said that he never reached a point where he considered himself an alcoholic and insists there are ‘no problems’ with his relationship with alcohol now.