Fabio Capello, the England manager, needs a good performance from Wayne Rooney tonight. The Manchester United striker has started to show a return to scoring form for his club, with two goals in the recent Premier League victory over Aston Villa. Capello could do with that kind of performance in Copenhagen's Parken Stadium from Rooney, who will play up front with Darren Bent in a new-look attacking partnership.
The England manager was at Old Trafford to see Rooney score twice against Villa and has also been seeking reassurance from Sir Alex Ferguson that the striker, who has 26 goals from his 67 caps, is firing again.
Rooney was carrying an ankle injury at last summer's World Cup, a major factor in his lacklustre displays in South Africa. He has also picked up another injury, to the other ankle, this season, but Capello believes the problems are behind him.
"I spoke with Sir Alex," Capello said. "He told me the ankle is good, no problems. I spoke also with Rooney. He's OK. He can play the game, no problem." Capello said Rooney's ability to create goals for others is just as important to the team as his eye for a goal. The Italian said the 25-year-old has not been given the credit he deserves for making goals for Dimitar Berbatov this season, although Ferguson is delighted with the contribution he has made.
Capello said: "He [Rooney] suffered ankle problems, but you have to know that, in terms of assists, he has had 12. And he has scored two goals.
"It was really important, he [Ferguson] said, the reason Berbatov has played well this year because Rooney played well and helped him a lot. But, you know that for a forward, scoring goals is really important. He scored twice against Aston Villa, and that was really good for him. For him [Ferguson] and for me, Rooney is really important."
Capello defended the decision to play this friendly in Denmark in such a busy time of the year, the week before the Champions League knock-out stages begin. He promised he would make six substitutions tonight to ensure that players are not exhausted, but said he must tread a fine line. Having lost 2-1 to France in their last outing in November, England need to win. However Capello is sensitive to clubs' concerns over key players, particularly following the angry exchanges with some members of the Liverpool coaching staff after Steven Gerrard missed a month with an injury picked up against France.
"I will do six substitutions because a lot of players who play have played a lot in the last three weeks," Capello said. "They have to play more in the next few weeks, too. So I have to be careful. I try to help the clubs. But, also, we have to play a good game and we have to win." Capello also denied claims that playing for England has lost its allure. "All the players who play with the national team are proud to play for the national team," he said.