Rooney looks to hit the right note in crucial season
Just enough education to perform. The title of the Stereophonics album is tattooed on the inside of Wayne Rooney's left arm and if those words have been fitting over the course of his seven years in the game then they are an understatement now.
Rooney spoke in the pre-season of his desire to transform from “someone who could be great” into “someone who is a great player” and there has been evidence already in the past month that this was not just a declaration but serious intent.
Rooney is under no illusions about the size of the task ahead of him as talisman for club and country over the course of the next nine months concluding in South Africa next summer.
“It's definitely going to be the biggest year for me,” he declared.
But with his 10 goals in seven games for England to go with four in four domestically and the benefits of being freed from the yoke of playing bag man to Cristiano Ronaldo yielding what he considers “probably the best start I have had to a season for Man United, goalscoring wise,” it is evident that the nation's optimism may not be of the usual blind variety reserved of a World Cup year.
The equation has suddenly became a lot simpler for Rooney — play through the middle, keep scoring and everyone is happy. Time will tell if the 23-year-old has moved on from those bursts of goals which, for a time after they have dried up, feel like they were a rainstorm in a desert, but those 10 goals in 13 games for Capello, compared with 11 in 33 under Sven Goran Erkisson suggests a working relationship more fruitful even than that between Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Both Capello and Ferguson have told him to cut out the workhorse routine; to spend less time lurking where his own side's full back
should be, and more in the six-yard box, “being selfish”, as Rooney puts it. But while Ferguson was always more inclined to give Rooney the hairdryer blast than Cristiano Ronaldo, Capello is evidently the one of the two managers who instills most fear.
“I think his presence when he first arrived was clear for everyone to see,” Rooney said of Capello yesterday. “He is a fearsome man, strong, passionate and wants to win.”
While Eriksson seemed more inclined to leave Rooney's natural resourcefulness to flourish of its own accord, the Capello reign has been characterized by the Italian standing on a training ground with him, delivering instructions.
“He said to me 'get in front of the goal more',” Rooney said.
“He is on the training pitch all the time — and telling me to do certain things.
“He explains what he wants you to do, how he wants us to play, what team shape he wants us to do, explains about the other teams, where the threat comes from. He's definitely the best manager for England.”