For most Premier League fans, Wayne Rooney has been out of sight, out of mind for the past few months. Viral clips of the former Everton and Manchester United forward scoring, assisting and exceeding expectations for DC United have bounced around social media every so often, but Rooney has, for the most part, existed outside the English football-sphere since making the move to MLS in the summer.
This Thursday, the 33-year-old will be thrust back into the Wembley limelight as he makes one last appearance for England
, collecting one final cap as a farewell to the country he has scored more goals for than anyone else. Coincidentally, that final appearance will come against the USA, the country Rooney has now made his home.
Form Recaptured in USA
Of course, sentimentality is the primary motivation behind Rooney’s call-up. The forward isn’t the force of nature he once was, visibly fading in physicality over the past few years. He isn’t a part of Gareth Southgate’s short term plans, never mind his long term plans. Rooney will be sent home before next week’s Nations League crunch clash with Croatia.
But Rooney has been rejuvenated by his move to the States. The 33-year-old almost single-handedly turned the worst team in MLS into play-off contenders, scoring 12 times and assisting six in just 21 appearances for DC United. There was an energy to his play that hadn’t been witnessed for years. Rooney, in many ways, was back to something close to his best.
A move to MLS can be a gamble. Over the years, it has become a destination for ageing European stars looking for one last contract. This has been a mutually beneficial arrangement, with the American game in turn boosted by the reputation of the stars it has lured. Rooney was just the latest big-name signing.
But as the likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have found out, MLS can be a challenge too far. It takes full commitment to succeed there and that is what Rooney has given since signing for DC United. And knowing what the former Premier League and Champions League winner is like, he will give full commitment to his last appearance for England, even if it only amounts to a cameo off the bench for the final 15 minutes.
Thursday Throwback to Days of Old
This Thursday’s game presents Rooney with one last chance to serve a reminder of his quality, of his legend. The pace that made him so potent as a teenager might have gone, but so much of what has made him, arguably, England’s best ever player remains. The move to DC United has highlighted this.