After cementing his match-winning reputation with the goal that gave Manchester United the Carling Cup on Sunday, Wayne Rooney, the man England are pinning their World Cup hopes on, declared himself fit for tomorrow's friendly against Egypt. The Manchester United striker started on the bench at Wembley after a knee worry and suffered a knock before heading in the winner in a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa. "I went for a scan and it's just a bit of bruising," said Rooney yesterday. "I should train tomorrow and should play on Wednesday."
The goal at Wembley was the striker's 28th of the season and underlined why his is so valuable to England. With that in mind, Fabio Capello, the England manager, may yet choose to rest him for the game against the African champions. Meanwhile, Rooney had some words of support for Ryan Shawcross, the newest member of the England squad, who was once on the books at Old Trafford. Shawcross, the Stoke defender, got his England call-up just hours after being dismissed for a challenge which broke the leg of the Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey on Saturday evening.
Rooney added: "I was with him at United for a couple of years and he's not that type of player. I'm sure he'll be OK, he'll be welcomed into the squad and will be hoping to get a game on Wednesday. It's unfortunate but he's got to move on now. He's in the squad at a young age, it's important for him to get a game and if he does I'm sure he'll do well." Gary Neville, the United right-back who also came on as a substitute at Wembley, said Rooney was indispensable for both club and country.
Neville is not given to hyperbole. But that is the only conclusion he can draw from Rooney's quite staggering contribution this term. "Wayne is a great player to play with and is one of the brilliant players Manchester United have had," said Neville. "England cannot afford to lose him and neither can we. "We have two months of important matches now and we need him fit for them. It is there for everyone to see. He is going through a peak moment in his career. He is looking dangerous every time he goes on the pitch and can score lots of goals. The only thing he has to do for England now is go and win something."
And Neville does not feel Rooney, 24, will weigh himself down with the burden of such heavy expectation that is now sitting on his shoulders. "Wayne can handle all the comments and accolades, all the praise and criticism," said Neville. "He has been around a long time now and he has the experience of a 30-year-old really even at such a young age because he came into the Premier League at 16. He has played in European Cups, FA Cups, World Cups and European championships. He has experienced the lot. He is maturing now.
"It is not just about his performance, it is about his determination and character and his willingness to always fight for the team. "That is what makes him stand out. He is not just a player who wins you games he fights for everything as well. His temperament is brilliant. He is brilliant to watch." * With agencies