Wayne Rooney admits he has just one regret with the England national team.
Against the United States on Thursday (3 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMás) at Wembley Stadium, Rooney will right that wrong when he makes his 120th, and final, appearance for the Three Lions.
“Things happen that are good and bad in football, you have to accept that,” Rooney said at a news conference Tuesday. “It would have been nice to win something. I appreciate my time in the England squad. There were great memories and I made great friends. The only regret was maybe not having that last game to say thanks to the fans.”
Rooney retired from international duty in 2017 as England’s all-time leading scorer (53) and most capped outfield player (119). He put to bed any talk of a return to both the national team, saying the farewell match is a “one-off”, as well as a return to the Premier League from D.C. United, be it on a loan or permanent transfer.
“I made the decision to obviously go to the States,” Rooney said. “When I make a decision, I tend to stick to it. It’s important that I give my full commitment to D.C. I am not prepared to [come back to an English club on a loan deal]. I will finish my career there.”
The 33-year-old admitted a farewell return had been in the works for the better part of a year, with both he and manager Gareth Southgate waiting for the right time.
“We both felt it was the right time to do it [now], my season in the States is over, and it’s against the USA and it’s a friendly match before the lads play against Croatia on Sunday,” Rooney said. “We all felt it was the right time and the right game.”
But Rooney’s return hasn’t been universally backed, with some criticizing the decision. Rooney doesn’t mind the naysayers as Southgate wants to institute a culture of appreciating legends of the team as the norm.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” Rooney said. “The most important thing is, speaking to the FA, we thought it was right, and the players I’ve spoken to think it’s right. As a country we haven’t done anything like this before but I hope that in 10-15 years’ time we’re doing it for someone like Harry Kane, who could go on to get the goalscoring record.”
Kane is the team’s current captain and heir to Rooney’s goalscoring throne. The 25-year-old has 19 goals for his country in 34 appearances and has already twice won the Premier League’s golden boot. Kane will keep the armband against the United States, as well as the No. 10 shirt, even though Kane wants to give Rooney the captaincy.
Rooney doesn’t mind what’s on his bicep, or what number is on his jersey, or how many minutes he is on the pitch: He’s just happy to be involved with the team again.
“If Harry Kane handed over the captain’s armband then great but the important thing is not wearing the armband, wearing number 10 or playing 90 minutes, it is to pull the shirt on again and that will be a special moment.”
Will it be a fairytale ending, complete with one final goal in his one final appearance?
“It’s not important,” Rooney said of scoring. “It’d be nice, but the main thing is to run out at Wembley one last time and have the opportunity to thank the fans for the years they’ve supported me.
“To run out at Wembley again will be something I will be proud of and it will be a special moment,” Rooney said.