World Cup 2014: Wayne Rooney death stare replaced by positive outlook for the Manchester United striker
The striker is in a happy place – but still has a dig at former team-mate Paul Scholes
Wayne Rooney has done dozens of England press conferences over the years, and the truth is that far too many of them have been tense occasions. Times when difficult questions have had to be asked about problems on and off the pitch, and Rooney's halting delivery, combined with the suspicion that he could blow at any minute, have made them awkward occasions.
When he walked into the media centre that adjoins the Urca training ground, there were the usual list of critics to be assessed, with his former team-mate Paul Scholes top of the list. Then there was the weight of history. World Cup finals are where it tends to go wrong for Rooney and he knows better than anyone that his time to change that is running out.
But this was another Rooney, one who was reflective about past failings and eager to seize a chance that he knows may not come again. At no point did he respond to any of the spikey questions with his famous death stare, but that did not mean he was short of a spikey answer or two. Mainly for Scholes, whose suggestion that Rooney is past his best sparked a debate about the England striker.
The line that resonated the most was the one that put the nature of his relationship with Scholes into context. He said that he and Scholes had not spoken since. "He's been a great player at Man United," Rooney said, "but I've never had his phone number and he's never had mine."
As for what Scholes said: "I don't agree with it. Whether it's valid or not, you'll have to ask him." What of Scholes' view that Rooney had peaked three years ago? "I'm sure he's upset a lot of people at Man United because they see me as worthy of signing a new deal at the club, so they obviously have got different opinion to what Paul has. But you'll have to ask him.
"It was a big strange, I'll be honest, but he has his opinions and he's entitled to them. I don't agree with it, but he's probably the best player I've ever played with, so I'm not going to knock him as a player, but I don't agree with his point."
What to make of Rooney's promise to himself that he was going to enjoy this World Cup finals? It makes sense insomuch as whatever he has done in the past has simply not worked therefore he might as well try something different. He was not saying that he had given up caring, just that he was no longer prepared to be bowed down by the weight of expectation.
"The hardest thing about last time was I missed my family, and this time I've learned to deal with that. Of course I miss them, but I've learned how to deal with that. They'll be over here eventually. To be honest, it's good to get a few days' rest."
He said he had worried that he had over-thought things in the past. David Moyes famously told him at the start of last season that he had lost his aggressive edge, which struck a chord with Rooney
"He felt I had lost a bit of aggression from my game – which I was asked to do, by the way," Rooney said. "He said he wanted me to find that aggression back. I thought about it a lot. It wasn't really me [without the aggression]. Maybe there are times when you have to try to lift the crowd with a tackle, obviously not a stupid one, a run back and tackle can lift the fans and even turn a game round.
"Everything gets blown up. Before the sending off against Montenegro [in 2011] my record in terms of discipline and bookings wasn't that bad. Then it was blown up. I was asked to stop doing that. Stupid tackles. Maybe I was trying to do too much."
The last time Rooney spoke on England duty was in the Portugal training camp two weeks previously. He said then that he was prepared to speak to Dr Steve Peters the team psychiatrist.
"I've spoken to him a few times. I'll not say what was said. I think he's a great benefit for the team – if you look at the achievements in his life, it's incredible really. He can only benefit us. I found him great and easy to talk to."
It is early days yet for Rooney in Brazil, and we have been here before with him, but if his mood is anything to go by, the signs look positive.
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