Owen and Heskey, Sheringham and Cole, Wright and Smith, Crouch and Defoe, Keegan and Johnson. These Englishmen are all part of an exclusive club that is soon to add a new pairing to its members list. Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney are now thought to be the first choice combination for both club and country. After playing the majority of the season together at Old Trafford, leading the line in a team that so nearly regained their trophy, the duo have now earned their positions for their country. Despite manufacturing minimal chemistry in the two games that they were selected at the European Championships this summer, the United double act could well be the future of a national squad that Roy Hodgson is now preparing for World Cup qualifiers. However, with the pressures and expectation that arise from national supporters when you know your strike partner so well at club level, can the duo dominate for years to come or will they just be another lethal striker pair whose connection vanishes at international tournaments?
There is little doubt that Wayne Rooney is this country’s star man. At just 26, the former Everton youngster is the talisman whose goals are the most craved necessity for England. His time at Man United has been dotted with strike partnerships that have successfully guided the Red Devils to countless domestic trophies. However, since Danny Welbeck’s unequivocally successful return to Old Trafford after a loan spell with Sunderland, a partnership has been born that has been so fruitful, in-form Mexican striker Chicarito has been forced to the side-lines. Welbeck and Rooney seem as though they communicate well, the fact that they are both English may assist in this. The pair also complement each other’s games, with Rooney usually playing just behind Welbeck, the former holding the ball up while the latter makes defence splitting runs. It seems that the duo are at the right club to build a rapport with each other, especially as their manager is no novice at creating lethal striking partnerships and directing young English talent.
The subject that desires to be resolved is the transition of form from the domestic game to the international game. The adjustment of coach and environment that are an obvious alteration when playing for England should not distract from the communication that the United duo will be endlessly constructing at their club. The system that current national coach Hodgson maintains allows Rooney and Welbeck to play in positions they are comfortable with, despite having to defend with more regularity than with their club. However, it is not just this pair of strikers that fail to transfer their form for their club to their country. England players past and present have struggled to adapt to the international game, despite club showing. This curse will need to be lifted by Hodgson if these two are to succeed. If they do, and levels of performance for club and country run parallel in their excellence, the Three Lions could uncover one of the most successful forward partnerships in recent history.
A reminisce to past days of strike partners at club level who adorned their national jerseys and flourished with regularity, indicates that Rooney and Welbeck could significantly dominate for the next few years. Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten both played for AC Milan and as a striking partnership for Holland, set the European Championships in 1988 alight with their chemistry and reciprocal understanding of the others game. Gerd Muller and Uli Hoeness were teammates at Bayern Munich during the 1974 World Cup and quite superbly lead West Germany to their second World Cup win. These may appear to be unjust comparisons due to the legendary statuses of the aforementioned partnerships but it mustn’t be forgotten that Welbeck and Rooney lead the line for one of the most successful clubs in the history of football. Expectation is compulsory and the duo should be called upon to replicate the form of some of the best players that the game has ever seen.
Next season will be a monumental test for Welbeck and Rooney. Cementing their places at Old Trafford is key, especially with the impressive Hernandez snapping at their heels for a starting place. Welbeck also needs to raise his goal tally, which stood at a mediocre 12 last season. However, with this summer’s international experience behind him, the youngster will have matured and will be eager to impress the doubting minority. The potential of the partnership between Welbeck and Rooney is enormous considering that they could feasibly be playing together for the next 8-10 years. If Hodgson can get the best out of the pair, every sweaty palm and butterfly that consumes the watching nation when England participate in an international tournament, will vanish and the two United stars needn’t be bundled into the aforementioned list of also-ran striking partnerships and could create an exclusive club of their own that has a member list of legendary status.