Wayne Rooney injury: England fear repeat of 2010 is on the cards in Brazil as Manchester United striker struggles to the end of the season

Striker’s struggles with injury in the build-up to the World Cup are eerily similar to the disaster that unfolded in South Africa

chief football correspondent

This month marks the fourth anniversary of Wayne Rooney’s one career triumph as the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year. He was such a certainty to win that Jimmy Greaves, presenting the award that night, dispensed with the formalities of envelope and drum roll and simply said “Come on, Wayne, come and get your trophy”.

Rooney had been so good in those first eight months of the 2009-10 season that there were no genuine contenders capable of beating him. As he went up to get the trophy he was not just applauded by his fellow professionals, most of them from Football League clubs and well-oiled by then, some in the room chanted his name. That’s what 34 goals before the end of March gets you.

Looking back on Rooney’s awesome form that season throws up some remarkable performances. There were two hat-tricks, including all four goals in a 4-0 win over Hull City in January, and he had nine goals in six games for United up to and including the first-leg away defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16. The goal he scored that night was his last of the season, including, unfortunately, the World Cup finals too.

By the time Rooney picked up that award he had already sustained the injuries that would ruin another major international tournament for him. He hurt his right ankle ligaments in the first game against Bayern and was rushed back for the second leg to try to rescue the tie. Later the England medical staff surmised he might have injured his left ankle as well, as he overcompensated for the original problem.

 

When a couple of us in the press spoke to Rooney well after midnight at the PFA awards, he was confident he would be “fine” for the World Cup. “Obviously, there is a lot of hype when I get injured but that is what you have to live with,” he said. Then he headed off into the London night with his entourage, blissfully unaware of the summer of anger and frustration that he had coming.

Hype? It is more like dread when Rooney gets injured this close to a major international tournament. On Wednesday night against Bayern he played with what was described as a chipped bone in his toe, the discomfort soothed by a painkilling injection which, as well as numbing the pain, seriously numbed Rooney’s performance levels. The two chances that fell to him in either half were squandered. The game passed him by.

The extent of Rooney’s injury is still not clear, although certain historical parallels are a little uncomfortable. After the 3-1 defeat to Bayern on Wednesday night that sealed United’s Champions League elimination, manager David Moyes said that Rooney was having “a struggle striking the ball”. It was a grave admission about a footballer at any level. If that was the case then why was he playing?

There are troubling aspects to Rooney’s injury for Roy Hodgson, the England manager. Traditionally, Rooney has taken longer to return from these kind of problems than the early prognosis has suggested. Famously, when Rooney injured himself against Bayern four years ago, Sir Alex Ferguson said after the match that it was of little consequence and he expected Rooney to be “available next week”.

He has always taken match-time to return to his optimum form. Simply missing the last five games of United’s season is no guarantee that England will take him to Brazil fresh or ready. Rooney does not benefit from a break when he is playing well. “Whenever he was out for a few weeks with an injury,” Ferguson wrote in his recent autobiography, “Wayne’s fitness would drop quite quickly.”

In 2010, Rooney played one more game in April after the Bayern second leg, the 1-0 away win at Manchester City, and then the final two league games of the season. He played in three England friendlies and the four games of the tournament and he left South Africa still waiting for his first decent performance. Given his form pre-April, it was painful to watch him searching hopelessly for his lost game.

This time one can only hope that the injury is much less serious, but the necessity of a painkilling injection is a concern. There is enough pressure on Rooney as it is without him going to Miami for the warm-up and on to Brazil with an injury hanging over him. Even Nike, which pays handsomely for him to wear its boots, has made a feature in its latest advertising campaign of Rooney never having scored at a World Cup.

That encompasses the 2006 World Cup too, when the squabbles between United and Sven Goran Eriksson’s staff only served to highlight the desperation of England to have Rooney fit after he fractured a metatarsal, as well as his obvious unsuitability to cope with the demands of the tournament. The conclusion to that depressing episode does not need recounting again, but it will not be a path that Hodgson will wish to travel.

Nevertheless, Hodgson has great faith in Rooney, who was a key figure for the England manager in the two decisive qualifying games against Montenegro and Poland in October, scoring in both. It has been the prerogative of England managers in the past to stake everything on Rooney in major tournaments, as Hodgson did at Euro 2012, and it has not helped the player himself or the team in the long run.

Already the warning signs are there for Hodgson: a toe injury, injections to cope with it in games too important to miss, and a tired Rooney who is a long way off his best at the end of another long season.

Since that PFA award-winning season, Rooney has averaged more than 45 games and 25 goals a season for club and country. It has been a good run, and at 28, 10 years on from his first impact at a tournament at Euro 2004, he should be in the form of his life. But that form ebbs and flows with injury and mood. When it disappears there is no forcing it back.

Hodgson will hope that the chipped bone in Rooney’s toe is nothing that will not heal quickly, and that may be the case. But history has suggested that, when it comes to England’s biggest name, it is rarely that simple.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick