Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said on Sunday that Wayne Rooney was the golden boy of English football and urged fans and the media not to savage the striker for his World Cup red card against Portugal.
England lost their quarter-final on penalties after going down to 10 men on Saturday, a re-run of their 1998 World Cup exit following David Beckham's dismissal against Argentina.
Beckham was vilified in the media and had an effigy of him hanged around the country in the aftermath of England's defeat and Eriksson seemed anxious to avoid a repeat with Rooney.
"I think you, much more than me, for the next years, need Wayne Rooney," said Eriksson, who has made way as manager for Steve McClaren to take over.
"So pay attention please, he is the golden boy of English football. Don't kill him, I beg you because you need him.
"You need him for the qualification games for Euros and you need him in Euro to win the Euro 2008. He is a fantastic football player.
"He has his temperament but I have no hard feelings against him at all and you shouldn't have."
Rooney got his red card in the 62nd minute for stamping on the groin area of Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho after a tussle in front of Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo.
"Wayne Rooney is a fantastic football player and if he did it with intention or not, leave it," Eriksson told a news conference at their Buhlertal training ground near the team hotel.
"I spoke to Wayne yesterday at the end and his opinion is that he had no intention to do it.
"I went to the referee, talked to him after the game and asked him about it and he was sure, 100 percent, even more that it was a red card.
"He told me that he hit the other player and he told me exactly where he was hit -- so I couldn't complain about that," Eriksson said.
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images