On Thursday, the US national team will face off against England at Wembley Stadium, in the fourth meeting between the two sides in the past 13 years. The meeting between the two itself wouldn’t have been all that noteworthy, until two weeks ago, when the English FA announced that D.C. United’s Wayne Rooney would be called back in, to earn one last cap, and to be honored for his career with the Three Lions.
Rooney’s form with the Black-and-Red made that choice seem like a logical one on this side of the pond. On the otherside though, there was considerable backlash, both from fans and commentators alike. Despite it now being known that Rooney will come on as a second half substitute, in the Wayne Rooney Foundation International, which will help raise money for his charities, there’s been talk about how such an occasion devalues the meaning of an England cap.
That’s all hogwash, according to his club manager.
“It’s kind of ridiculous to me,” United head coach Ben Olsen told reporters on Tuesday about the backlash, as he wrapped up United’s 2018 season with a final media scrum. “C’mon, this guy has done plenty for that country. I told him to enjoy himself, and to take it easy on the Yanks.”
At the same time, Rooney has had to field questions at a press conference about how the game came about, and whether or not he understood why some were questioning the decision for the country’s all-time leading scorer to get one more game in the England shirt.
Rooney, with his quiet demeanor in front of the press, defended his call-up, hoping that it would lead to similar recognition down the road.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinions,” said Rooney in a pre-game press conference. “As a country, we haven’t done anything like this before. It’s the first time, and I hope in 10-15 years time, we’re sat here for someone, say Harry Kane, who could possibly go on and get the goal-scoring record, and it will be something which will happen again.”
Rooney amassed 53 goals in his first 119 caps for the Three Lions. His 120th appearance on Thursday will leave him just five short of goalkeeper Peter Shilton, who holds the record for the most England caps, and was one of many former England players to voice his displeasure over Rooney’s recall.
However, on Tuesday, Rooney made sure to note at the press conference that he was not making any special demands out of England manager Gareth Southgate. Speculation that Rooney would start and wear the armband from the whistle had already been shot down, and Rooney reiterated that he wasn’t making any demands from Southgate, who managed Rooney at the 2016 European Championships.
“As I said to Gareth, whatever he wants from me, is what I’ll give him. I know this is the last game for me, and I’m not putting any pressure on him,” said Rooney. “I’ve seen bits saying should he wear the number 10, should he wear the armband? I’m not making any demands.”
“My message to Gareth was you get what you need out of the game from the players. And when you feel it’s right to bring me on, that’s fine for me,” added United’s captain. “Hopefully he can get what’s right for the players, and then at some stage in the second half I can come on.”
Also of importance to the game is that there will be fundraising efforts for the Wayne Rooney Foundation. Though ticket sales won’t go to the foundation, other money raised will go the foundation, which aims to help disadvantaged children.
“What’s important as well, there would be money raised for the children,” Rooney said of the game, which will be the third time he will have faced the US national team.
Rooney also put to bed the notion that he might return to England this winter on loan, or even in the future to end his career. The former Manchester United and Everton striker confirmed his commitment to the Black-and-Red, and explicitly said the he plans to end his stellar career playing Stateside.
“It’s important to me that I give my full commitment to D.C. I’ve seen talk about a loan move back here, which I’m not prepared to do,” said the MLS MVP nominee during his press conference. “I’m finding my feet in the States, and my children now go to school there. I’ll finish my career there.”