Last chance for Rooney?
After a perfect Euro 2016 qualification record from Group E, Roy Hodgson’s England look to be in solid shape for a real crack at the final stages of the tournament to be held this coming June in France.
During the qualifying process, England striker, Wayne Rooney surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton’s national team record of 49 goals by netting his number 50, with a penalty against Switzerland back in September.
Barring his exploits at Euro 2004, when a fresh-faced Rooney shot to prominence with four goals as England narrowly exited at the quarter-final stage against hosts Portugal, the now 30 year-old hitman has not really delivered since at a major international tournament. Is this his last chance for one of the best – if not the very best England forward of all time - to help guide the national team to their best days since 1966?
Rooney’s paymasters, Manchester United – it would be fair to suggest – are in transition, and this includes Rooney himself. United are currently struggling to adapt to manager Louis van Gaal’s style of management, much to the recent ire of the Old Trafford faithful. However, four goals in his last three appearances is emerging proof that the striker, and United are trying to return to the free-flowing, attacking football that their supporters are more accustomed to.
What is also noticeable these days is that Rooney is not the player who would chase down every lost cause anymore, and is far more conservative in his use of energy on the pitch, and this itself causes debate. Is Rooney on the way out of Old Trafford because his legs are shot, or could he be like Ryan Giggs, who reinvented himself as a ball-playing midfield player to prolong his United and England career?
Current England boss, Roy Hodgson has an obvious key role to play, not only in England’s future, but for Rooney himself. The experienced international manager must devise a team plan that will get the best out of his forward – and the rest of the attacking players - if the Three Lions are to make serious inroads in France this summer. It will be very interesting to see if Rooney will be paired with Tottenham’s star young striker, Harry Kane for Euro 2016.
It seems that the days of a two-pronged forward attack is a thing of the past however, with one striker being the more fashionable choice. Rooney is an obvious candidate to play in the reserved role behind an attacking focal point such as Kane, perhaps along with the pace and trickery in wide areas from the likes of Raheem Sterling and Theo Walcott. Hopefully Hodgson can find the right equilibrium for tournament success.
Even with the emergence of Kane, the national onus will be on Rooney to deliver the goods in the summer. Rooney is our captain and our talisman, but he cannot go on forever. He will be 32 at the time of World Cup 2018, and that could be a step too far for England’s greatest ever goal scorer – statistically at least. Who knows what the future holds, but Wayne could be playing in the MLS in two years’ time and the England manager – Hodgson or other – could decide to call time on his international career.
After already taking part in 13 years of football at the very highest level already, Rooney’s sturdy frame could be in the early stages of decline after such a prolific career. Hopefully that is not a true reflection though and we can enjoy his talents for years to come in an England shirt – our hopes of success will surely benefit.