Rooney needs a lucky break to get over his injury – and the Nike curse

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The Independent Football

The reception accorded Wayne Rooney as he departed the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium pitch prematurely, his face etched again in a frown, confirmed that his stock remains high among England fans despite his tirade in Cape Town on Friday.

However, while he need not be concerned about a slump in popularity that ends in him living in a caravan park, neither is a knighthood – the other fate outlined in Nike's "Write the Future" advertisement – imminent.

England's failure to achieve a more commanding victory sends them towards a quarter-final with Argentina rather than Uruguay. The clearest opportunity to avoid that fell to Rooney when he was played in just before the hour. However, the striker scuffed his shot enabling Samir Handanovic to tip the ball against the post. Soon after he trudged off. It is now 11 hours in an England shirt since Rooney last scored.

Perhaps it is written. The core characters in Nike's advert have, to date, had an ill-starred World Cup. Ronaldinho did not even arrive and Franck Ribéry is already home. Didier Drogba came into the tournament with a broken arm and looks like leaving at the group stage. Fabio Cannavaro, whose last act before coming to South Africa was to signal his retirement from high-level football when he agreed a move to the United Arab Emirates, could be making a similarly early exit. Which leaves Rooney, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Their careers have been intertwined since they joined forces at Old Trafford six years ago, and not just in the domestic arena. Rooney's last World Cup ended with Ronaldo's wink after the Englishman had been sent off. Then they were promising young talents, respectively overshadowed by David Beckham and Luis Figo. Now they carry their nations' hopes.

Both came into this tournament on the back of a goal drought, and began with an outbreak of temper: Ronaldo booked for a flare-up against Ivory Coast, Rooney turning on his own fans. Ronaldo, having twice hit the woodwork in this World Cup, finally ended his barren run in the 7-0 slaughter of North Korea.

That is the sort of lucky break Rooney needs. Perhaps it will come in the last 16 on Sunday. He seemed less frustrated yesterday and made telling contributions on the ball. He nearly put Frank Lampard though after 15 minutes, set up Steven Gerrard in the 30th, and generally linked the play well. However one shot from a tight-angle when he should have passed to James Milner, and an optimistic one in the second half from distance, betrayed an anxiety over his lack of goals.

His substitution was protective. His ankle, said Fabio Capello, was "not so good". It needs to be good by Sunday. England's lack of attacking menace underlined just how much the team relies upon the still-young Liverpudlian.

United deny any move for Cole

Manchester United have distanced themselves from speculation that they are planning a bid for Joe Cole. Tottenham and Arsenal have also been linked with the 29-year-old, who is a free agent after leaving Chelsea.

Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, who worked with Cole at West Ham, said he thought the midfielder had agreed a transfer to United, which would be concluded once England's World Cup campaign is over.

Sources close to Old Trafford have distanced themselves from that speculation. There have been rumours a potential transfer could be derailed over wages but a United insider has insisted there was never any contact.

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