May 16, 2016

    Rooney faces his greatest adversary: Age


    MANCHESTER United captain Wayne Rooney is facing the biggest fight of his 13-year international career to hold on to his England place going into the European Championships.

    England's talisman ever since he burst on to the scene as a preternaturally gifted 18-year-old at Euro 2004, he has gone to five major tournaments as one of the first names on the team-sheet.

    But competition from emerging stars such as Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, coupled with doubts about his own form and fitness, means that England's all-time record goal-scorer is no longer an automatic pick.

    "As I've said throughout my career with Manchester United and England, I never take my place for granted," said Rooney, 30.

    The current campaign has already been a historic one for Rooney, who broke Bobby Charlton's 35-year-old England scoring record in October and now has 51 international goals to his name.

    He has also moved on to 109 caps, behind only Peter Shilton (125), David Beckham (115) and Steven Gerrard (114) in England's all-time ranking.

    There are doubts about his ability to press with the same intensity as his younger rivals.

    England manager Roy Hodgson has toed a diplomatic line with regard to his captain's status, defending Rooney's right to a place in the squad but stating that he cannot consider himself a guaranteed starter.

    In purely statistical terms, Rooney's international record stands up against anyone's.

    But with Kane and Vardy the new darlings of the English game and time catching up on him, the former Boy Wonder must prove in France that his best days in an England shirt are not behind him.