Wayne Rooney admits he is pleased the pressure of England’s football fans doesn’t solely rest on him this summer at Euro 2016.
The Manchester United and England captain has been relied on heavily for goals and inspiration by England, often seen as the only truly world-class player within previous squads.
However, his role has changed within the setup, especially after being named captain following the retirement of Steven Gerrard in 2014. Rooney has matured and has since broken Sir Bobby Charlton’s long-standing record as all-time top goalscorer for England’s national team. This season, he could break the same record, but for Man United, currently held by Sir Bobby.
Speaking ahead of England’s round of 16 tie against Iceland at the Allianz Riviera, Rooney revealed he is pleased to spread the pressure amongst his squad.
“I have always held a lot of pressure in at previous tournaments, feeling I have to be the one who has to win games and tournaments,” he admitted. “But we now have a lot of players who can do that and I am happy to sit in the background and allow the players do that.”
Rooney was happy to accept that, as the captain and one of the first names on Roy Hodgson’s teamsheet, “If I have to be the person to step up and win us games, I will do that.” Despite that, he is now “happy with the way it [the tournament] is going and my role in the team.”
The 30-year-old has become a key midfielder for England rather than starting as a striker. This was something seen at United under van Gaal at the end of the 2015/16 season with performances in both the FA Cup semi-final and final particularly impressive. He has had more impressive midfield performances at Euro 2016, too.
Rather than the pressure falling on an injured Rooney to carry England, as has been the case at previous tournaments such as the 2010 World Cup, he now says that “the pressure is on us all to do well”.
He insisted he has “always gone into a tournament thinking, ‘if I don’t play at my best I cannot see us winning it’.”
Rooney is likely to captain England in his 115th appearance against Iceland on Monday evening. It will be a momentous occasion for him as he becomes the joint all-time record appearance maker alongside former-United midfielder David Beckham.