The decision to honour Wayne Rooney’s England career in Thursday’s friendly against the United States has been backed by their head coach David Sarachan.
Rooney will make a late substitute appearance in a match named in honour of his foundation, with the Football Association’s decision to toast the former captain’s achievements splitting opinion.
The 33-year-old is England’s all-time leading goalscorer and most-capped outfield player, with Rooney set to make his 120th international appearance at Wembley on Thursday.
While critics feel commemorating Rooney’s achievements in such a way devalues not only the game but also the honour of representing England, Sarachan has no concerns over the DC United striker playing his part.
Asked what he thought of the move to include Rooney and pay tribute to his career, the interim coach replied: “If he scores against us tomorrow I won’t be happy about the decision!
“I have thought about it because I know it has caused controversy. My feeling on that is maybe a little different.
“I think a player like Wayne Rooney who had such a terrific international career, in the league but in terms of his national team, to have an opportunity to reward him for that as a federation, I kind of applaud that.
“I don’t think it devalues the game. I would think different if Wayne had retired from football three years ago and they said, ‘Hey, why don’t you just jump in’, but he is coming off the back of a very impactful season in the States.
“He is fit, I’m sure he will not be out of place, he is in good form. Given all of that, I think when you have the opportunity to reward a player like that – I don’t think that is a bad thing at all.”
Sarachan was handed the reins as head coach of the United States on a temporary basis last year after Bruce Arena was sacked, having failed to qualify for the World Cup.
The pair also worked together at LA Galaxy during a time when first David Beckham and, more recently, Ashley Cole played for the Major League Soccer club.
Sarachan believes Rooney’s move to DC United in June showed another big-name player keen to make an impression in MLS, rather than just collect a bumper wage.
“I’m very impressed with the impact,” he said of Rooney’s first months in America’s capital.
“He was not there as a stunt or on vacation, he was there to play so from that standpoint I have been very impressed.
“I had the privilege to be with the LA Galaxy for a number of years and manage David and Ashley Cole – they came over as competitors and winners and I think with Rooney it was evident he wanted to step on the field and help his team be better and win.”
Despite his interim appointment last year, Sarachan remains in charge of the United States as the hunt for a long-term successor to Arena continues.
The 64-year-old has used his time in charge to introduce a raft of new names into the international fold, capping 50 players in 2018 and comparing the transitional period to that of Gareth Southgate and England.
“I have said that this 12 months has given as an opportunity to begin the process of identifying and offering players the opportunity to see where they are currently and where they can be in the future,” he explained.
“We have done that with a lot of players and moved it along so when we get into 2019 and the next cycle we have a good starting point.
“With England it is the same thing, when I look at their roster there is so much quality and so much depth – they seem to be in a good spot in terms of choices so they have done a great job with transitioning and moving guys along.”
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