Belfast Telegraph

Wayne Rooney happy to let football do the talking

By Sam Wallace

Not for the first time in his career, Wayne Rooney was invited yesterday to look back on the last 18 months and wonder at a life that seems to be permanently on fast-forward.

Since March 2010 he has gone from being among the most in-form strikers on the planet, to an angry, isolated young man berating the England fans in Cape Town after his team's draw with Algeria at last summer's World Cup finals. He has gone from a public attack on Manchester United's transfer policy last October, to being the leader of a new generation at the club. And having been virtually bald at 25, he is now sporting splendid new growth on the most famous scalp in English football.

A quick check of the diary confirmed that Rooney has not volunteered for a set-piece Press conference on England duty since 16 June, 2010, two days before that Algeria game and to say much has happened in the interim would be an understatement. This is the way Rooney's life works: a story told in tabloid front and back pages with barely a pause for breath between triumph and catastrophe.

But yesterday you needed only to look at the spring in his step, and the occasional joke at the expense of the Press corps — “looks like a few of you could do with the same,” he said when asked about his hair transplant — to know that Rooney is, as he said himself, in a “happier place”. Just in time for Fabio Capello whose team play Bulgaria on Friday and Wales on Tuesday in Euro 2012 qualifiers they have to win.

Not a man given to great introspection, Rooney did, however, have a simple answer for his rejuvenation. Quite simply, over the summer he took five weeks off and did nothing. Even the training plan given to him by the United fitness coach was left at home with the note to the milkman when he packed for his holidays.

“I just wanted to do nothing and get that rest which I haven't had for a while,” he said. “So I made a decision to do no training whatsoever and start pre-season and work hard from there.”

It seems to be working. He has sparkled so far this season, most notably with his hat-trick against Arsenal on Sunday but really his form had been returning before the end of last season. It was not that remarkable overhead kick against Manchester City in February, but earlier. “On New Year's Day I was quite happy to put 2010 behind me and I was looking forward to starting the New Year and doing well,” he said. “I scored my first goal from open play [against West Bromwich Albion] in a while [March 2010]. From then I was happy and I was confident I could help the team.”

With Rooney, of course, you never know what is round the corner. But he seems convinced when he says that United and England have a good generation coming through. “I think everyone should be excited. Not just about the United players. There are a lot of young players coming into the England team. Maybe something we haven't had before. Certainly over the last 10 years.”

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