It’s been all change for Wayne Rooney at Manchester United.
After signing for United in 2004 for £25m from Everton as a striker, Rooney is just four goals short of Bobby Charlton’s all-time club goalscoring record. He has already surpassed the World Cup winner at international level and surely now has his sights on completing the set.
But now that the years are catching up fast, Louis van Gaal has seen fit to drag the England captain into a different role, despite a shortage of good strikers at the club.
The alternative position has seen a decline in goals from Rooney this season. Just eight league goals underlines the position he now adopts as a No.10, rather than as a striker, as he used to be.
The match against Bournemouth this week showed that Rooney can still play a big part for United, as he scored the first in a 3-1 win, but also had a hand in the other two goals.
It is a position which will give Rooney longevity in the game, but not at international level.
For Rooney, the EUROs will be his swansong. At 30, he will be looking to maintain his playing career for a few more years yet, but as with other international players before him, to do that he will need to step down from the England squad.
Rooney knows it, we all know it, and Rooney knows that within Hodgson’s plans in France, he is not an automatic choice. The Manchester United man has been included because he is the captain, he is a Hodgson favourite, has 109 caps and 51 goals and has helped England cruise casually into the finals.
It is well documented that getting to finals isn’t England’s problem, but once they come up against strong opposition, the plan falls apart and Rooney can’t find the net.
Talking after the Bournemouth game, Rooney said: “Sometimes you have to make choices in your career and at the moment it’s better for me to play deeper,” he said. “It could be a bit different for England where I could still be the striker, but probably next season that’s where I see myself playing.”
For United maybe, but for England, no.
As with life, the team moves on and Hodgson has a plethora of attacking options including the injured Danny Welbeck. In the 26 man squad, Roy Hodgson named Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy of Leicester, Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge and Rooney’s 18-year-old United team-mate, Marcus Rashford, as his striking options.
It’s debatable whether the role that Rooney fills with United is one that suits Hodgson’s style of play. In the games without Rooney, England looked more than capable and if the England captain is left on the bench more than he is on the field, then the decision is stark and clear – it’s time to go.
Van Gaal was recently asked whether Rooney remained the best English centre-forward, to which he said: “It always depends on their form because everybody has tendencies in their shape. It is always like that. Wayne is more like that. Normally he is the best striker, but Harry Kane, how many has he scored? That also counts for a striker and also for Wayne. So, it’s also dependable on your team, how they are playing, so you cannot say that so easily. But when you see his record he is the best striker.”
Which then begs the question, why aren’t Man Utd using him as a striker?
Rooney has done more than his best wherever he’s played. He has been superb at international level and his own goalscoring record will stand for many years to come as a testament to his achievements.
However, the time will come this summer to put England to one side and concentrate on his club and the next record to be broken.