Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson says Wayne Rooney's performances are suffering because the striker is struggling to deal with the attention he is receiving from the media.
The England forward has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks after allegations regarding his private life appeared in tabloid newspapers and has been a long way from replicating the form that saw him score 34 goals last season.
Ferguson left Rooney out of the side to face his former club Everton last weekend in the wake of the allegations, and is concerned about the impact the current media coverage is having on the 24-year-old.
"I don't believe he has a confidence problem but the boy is starting to realise finally, without any question, what kind of focus is on him as a human being," Ferguson said in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.
"He is realising what it means to be at the centre of media attention for non-football-related questions. I don't think the boy can turn a corner at the moment without a camera on him. He can't move without the paparazzi being on him and, for a young person, that is not what you want. You want to play and enjoy your football without that attention on you, because that can be quite exhausting.
"He would like to keep playing with freedom, but the siege of the tabloids can wear out anyone."