LONDON -- Twelve months of frustration -- borne out of poor play and media criticism -- brought an expletive-laced outburst by Wayne Rooney before a worldwide television audience.
The Manchester United striker showed his best and worst during a 15-minute span at Upton Park on Saturday. He scored a rapid-fire hat trick to lead United to a crucial 4-2 win over Premier League rival West Ham, then spewed vitriol into a television camera.
On Monday, Rooney was cited by England's Football Association for the "use of offensive, insulting and/or abusive language." He has until Tuesday to respond.
If he accepts what the governing body says, he draws an automatic two-game. If he challenges either the charge or the severity of the punishment, the case will be heard by a commission Wednesday and the discipline could be increased.
United is chasing the league, FA Cup and Champions League trophies, and needs Rooney at his best. However, this is a player under severe pressure after a demanding year. His personal life was placed under intense scrutiny and his game took a big drop. He even came close to quitting the club that signed him for more than $40 million in 2004.
The start of Rooney's woes can be charted back to just more than a year ago, on the night he twisted his ankle in the first leg of United's Champions League quarterfinal loss to Bayern Munich.
At that time, with 35 goals in all competitions, the England star was being talked up -- at least by the British media -- as one of the three best players in the world along with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
He has not rediscovered that form, though, and injuries have hampered his progress. A disappointing World Cup in South Africa was followed by a lackluster first half of the 2010-11 Premier League season when he scored just one goal -- and that was a penalty kick.
In the midst of all that were tabloid allegations that he cheated on his then-pregnant wife with a prostitute, resulting in Rooney being on both the front and back of most newspapers.
Then came his bombshell announcement, about the time his relationship with United manager Alex Ferguson appeared strained, that he wanted to leave Old Trafford.
Rooney was eventually talked out of that by Ferguson and club officials, and signed a five-year contract in October worth a reported $235,000 a week.
Only in the last couple of months has he started to prove he is worth such an investment. But it is rare to see Rooney playing with a smile, even when he scores three times in 15 minutes to keep his team on course for a record 19th English title.
Rooney was sanctioned for cursing into a TV camera while celebrating his third goal against West Ham, not the sort of response that usually accompanies one's first hat trick in nearly 15 months.
"Why is he so angry?" Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said Monday. "Why do these young footballers have to be so angry with the world? They make hundreds of thousands of pounds. He's a silly boy for doing what he did."
Rooney issued an immediate apology through a club statement, acknowledging his actions may have offended "any parents or children that were watching." The next day the back-page headlines ranged from "Rood Yob" to "Shame on Roo" and "Red Devil Turns Air Blue."
Teammate Rio Ferdinand urged the media to ease up on the criticism.
"Newspapers+radio,come on give wayne a break he knows what he did was wrong and he has apologised,spoke 2 him this morning+genuinely sorry." Ferdinand posted Sunday on his Twitter account.
More important for United, though, is whether Rooney can maintain his improved play of late -- he has nine goals since the start of February.
Through it all, his team has managed to stay on course. And with its star player back in form, United may well prove even more dangerous in the final two months of the season.