Wayne Rooney might at last prove to be England’s talisman

As Wayne Rooney soared to meet Leighton Baines’ cross to head England past Poland and onto the World Cup in Brazil, he focused solely on burying the ball into the net, rather than on the implications his presence in Brazil is likely to generate.

However, having secured himself one more shot at international glory, the Manchester United striker will have to seize the chance, or at least prevent it from being a fiasco the size of his 2006 and 2010 tournaments.

Wayne Rooney will be 28 next week and should, in theory at least, be at the peak of his powers, entering the stage of his career in which maturity is no longer an accessory, but something expected of him.

By the time England kick off their World Cup campaign in Brazil a decade will have passed since Rooney took Euro 2004 by storm, before his metatarsal – and with it England’s hopes of success – gave way.

The boy from Croxteth has come a long way since then. In fact he’s come a long way since this summer when he had sent his toys flying out of the pram, hoping to force a move away from the club that had made him a world star after his exploit at Euro 2004.

David Moyes, however, whether out of necessity or out of sheer conviction has turned Rooney’s head around.

Since he returned to his favourite role up-front – one which, by the way, he had occupied 25 of his 31 appearances in all competitions for his club last season – the goals have flowed for Rooney and he’s developed into a talismanic figure for England.

Seven goals in the last six qualifiers emphasised Rooney’s importance for England, while his club form led to him being handed the armband in two games so far this season, quite a renaissance for a man who had looked completely bereft of enthusiasm towards his job in the last four months of last season. 

While Rooney’s form for Manchester United met the extremely high standards set by the man whose feud with the 28-year-old grew in intensity after Rooney’s made his malaise public, his return for England has often been short of what many thought to be legitimate to expect.

Arrived in Germany in 2006 on the back of an injury, Rooney cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines, as his patched-up body was clearly not yet ready to carry out his mind’s instructions.

The frustration reached boiling point as Rooney, isolated up-front against Portugal, stamped on Ricardo Carvalho and was sent off, thus leaving England’s hopes of getting past the quarter finals in tatters.

The petulant, frustrated reaction that saw Rooney earn his marching orders was arguably the last moment of youthful folly the former Everton man indulged into, as the fire that had burned into him two years earlier began to gradually peter out.

There were flashes of the old flame, of course, blatantly displayed in front of a TV camera after England’s 0-0 draw against Algeria in South Africa in 2010, only a few months before Rooney’s biggest outburst, with which he tried to force his way out of United in October 2010.

For a number of reasons, Wayne Rooney hasn’t quite become the phenomenon England fans had hoped he’d turn into a decade ago, nor has he matured as many United fans would have liked, but he remains one of the few English players capable to grab a game by the scruff of its neck.

Whether he’d be able to do so in the summer, remains to be seen. 

 

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