England v Republic of Ireland: He may no longer be top dog for Manchester United - but Wayne Rooney still is for England

The striker was involved at Wembley

Wembley

Irish football, on both sides of the border, has long experience of Manchester United players who were regulars for their country but not their club, but it is a relatively recent phenomenon for England, and especially for a player who cost around £30m and is England's fifth-highest goalscorer.

But that is Wayne Rooney's status at present. In limbo at Old Trafford, the first name on the team sheet for England. Roy Hodgson said prior to this game that when it came to Rooney “My faith has never wavered”. Given Rooney's performances for the current England manager why would it? Forced to sideline Rooney at the start of his reign because he was suspended for the opening games of Euro 2012 Hodgson brought him into the side as soon as possible and was rewarded with a goal in the defeat of Ukraine. However, Rooney was not match-fit then and it showed. This season he has been a key player scoring six times in his five appearances prior to tonight. Four of these matches were World Cup qualifiers, the other against Brazil. While three of the six goals were against San Marino this was still significant given he had managed just four goals in the previous two seasons combined under Fabio Capello, two of them coming in one match against Bulgaria.

It is as if England this last year has provided a haven for Rooney from his problems in Manchester. With his country he remains top dog and retains the manager's support. Hodgson usually plays Rooney in his best position, behind the front man, rather than wide left, midfield, or the various other positions he fills at United to facilitate Robin Van Persie, the new favourite.

Tonight Rooney drifted between the lines, dropping into pockets of space, always with his head up, searching for the killer pass. He overdid the latter in the first half when like his team-mates he squandered possession too readily, but there were some sublime passes. Walcott was released with a 40-yard-ball in the first period and a telling ten-yard one in the second. There was a neat one-two with Phil Jones who was then released with a luscious pass inside the full-back which Jones' cross did not match. There was even a quick-footed bit of trickery on the wing followed by as good a cross as England played all night.

If that showcased Rooney's versatility for much of the match he operated as an old-fashioned playmaker dictating the tempo of England's attacking game with a mix of short, ball-rotating passes, long, play-switching ones and, occasionally, a defence-splitting forward ball. Unlike many playmakers Rooney also had a prodigious work-rate. The long cross-field pass to Walcott was followed by a 40-yard sprint to the far post. He tracked back, tucked in and closed down as readily as any water-carrier. At the final whistle his undiminished status among his peers was clear - his was the first England shirt sought for swapping

However, great players are defined by their performances at the highest level and so far Rooney has failed to shine on the global stage. Since he burst onto the international scene as a rumbustious teenager against Turkey in Sunderland a decade ago there have been five international tournaments. England failed to reach Euro 2008, Rooney's promising Euro 2004 was cut short by injury, and his match-fitness was compromised by injuries before the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and suspension at Euro 2012.

Hodgson, who said of Rooney: “He did a lot of good things. He was very much involved in our attacking play.”, will need Rooney in form in the autumn simply to ensure England get to the next tournament, Brazil 2014. Few expect England to prosper in South America if they qualify but France 2016 could be different. Rooney will be 30 and in his creative if not physical prime. That, finally, could be when he delivers on the rich promise he showed that heady Wearside night all those years ago.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory