Just when we thought that Manchester United and the England national team were descending into an irrecoverable nosedive, their captain Wayne Rooney has almost singlehandedly willed his squads to get back on track. On top of that, Wazza has put up some pretty awesome individual accomplishments as well, winning his 100th cap for England in a Euro Qualifier against Slovenia. He is only 3 goals away from Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time record of 49, while Peter Shilton’s 125 caps are also within reach for Rooney. All the while, Rooney has captained these sides to important victories in the last month.
Starting with Manchester United, it was looking like the Red Devils were destined for another season without European competition. It began with early season struggles, hitting its peak with Rooney’s red card against West Ham in September, ruling him out for all the club’s October fixtures. He was notably rusty for the first match back against Manchester City, a 0-1 loss, but bounced back against Crystal Palace and Arsenal. He scored on a breakaway against Arsenal, which would prove to be the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory. The win and three points lifted United to 4th place in the Premier League.
Looking forward, Manchester United has some excellent opportunities to pick up points before the end of 2014. The next three matches are against Hull City, Stoke City, and Southampton, all teams that United can pick up points from. Above all, the club is beginning begin to play well, starting with their captain. With van Persie struggling, and Falcao being injured, Louis van Gaal will need Rooney to continue his inspiring play.
As for the England national team, things were looking pretty grim during the World Cup. Many were calling for Roy Hodgson to be sacked, claiming he was too old and not adapting to the new styles brought by South American players. Then Hodgson named Wayne Rooney captain, and the Three Lions have rattled off 6 straight wins. Rooney got his 100th cap in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia, scoring a goal in the process as well. Three days later he scored a brace against Scotland in a friendly. On top of all of that good news, England are tops in the Group E table with the maximum 12 points. While there are 6 match days to still be played, a six point cushion is pretty substantial at any stage.
Any rumors about sacking Roy Hodgson have been squashed, and Rooney with the captain’s armband seems to be working out pretty well. England are hoping that Wazza can continue his goal scoring streak all the way to next year, as the next time the Three Lions play is at the end of March 2015. If England are going to continue their success and qualify for Euro 2016, Rooney will be a major piece to the puzzle.
Maybe the break from international play will be good for Rooney, as he can concentrate on getting Manchester United some much needed points to ascend on the table. Teetering on the line between Champions League and Europa League is not a place that Red Devils supporters would like to be, but it is a welcome change from 7th place and being left out of European competition entirely. These past couple weeks have really been a pivotal stretch, while it seems United have turned the proverbial corner to success.
We would be remiss if we did not highlight some of the individual accomplishments of Wayne Rooney. He is now one of only 9 Englishmen in history to gain 100 caps for their national team. Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, and Frank Lampard are still playing, but have retired from international football with 107, 114, and 106 caps respectively. He joins Sir Bobby Charlton as the only forwards in the century cap list, while the all-time leader Peter Shilton is the only goalkeeper on the list. Bending legend David Beckham is second on the list with 115 caps over a 14-year span. As of today, he is 24 caps behind Peter Shilton, and 3 goals behind Sir Charlton.
There are questions as to whether Rooney will be able to eclipse both the caps and goalscoring records before his international career is over. We have a few numbers that might clear the picture. Despite 2014 not officially being complete, the English national team does not have any fixtures scheduled for the rest of the year. That means that Rooney will finish 2014 with 8 goals in 13 appearances. He had 6 goals in 10 appearances during 2013. His career average goals per appearance is .4554, roughly meaning he scores in just under half of the matches he plays. His 2013-14 average is .6086, which is considerably better than his career average.
Barring injury, Rooney will likely captain England through Euro 2016, assuming they qualify. England have 9 scheduled fixtures in 2015 between Euro qualifying and friendlies. Even with his career average, it is likely that Rooney will either tie or better Sir Charlton’s goalscoring record in 2015. There is no way he catches Peter Shilton’s cap record in 2015, but 9 more appearances would put Rooney in 4th place with 110 caps. 2016 would have friendlies, Euro 2016 competition, and probably some 2018 World Cup qualification. In 2012, England played 13 fixtures after advancing to the quarterfinals of Euro 2012. Another 13 matches in 2016 would put Rooney within spitting distance of Sir Charlton.
It is no sure thing that Rooney will play in every England match, but it is more likely now that Hodgson has made him captain. At age 29, Wazza still has plenty of good football left in him, injuries and age may slow him down. For now, we will say that the goal scoring record is probable, while the caps record is possible.
For all the debate about Rooney as a captain and a footballer, 100 caps for your country is an amazing achievement. We give two thumbs up and a standing ovation to Wazza, and wish him all the best in the years to come.
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