Rooney backs himself to keep playing
Photo Source: PAA
Wayne Rooney has vowed to fight his way back from criticism and the bench, with recent setbacks only making the England captain more determined to prove he is anything but finished.
No longer the rapid, lung-busting striker that captivated as a teenager, he is having to adapt to the changes that come with being an attack-minded player in their 30s.
It is a difficult transition exacerbated by the scrutiny of the wider footballing world, leading Rooney's place in the line-up - never mind his role - to be inspected like never before.
Some have gone as far as to suggest the 30-year-old is not only past his prime but past it altogether - talk that inspires rather than dissuades the England and Manchester United captain.
"No," Rooney retorted when asked if his career was coming to an end after being dropped to the bench for three-straight club matches.
"It is part of football. It is the challenge and I am determined to get back in the team at obviously club level.
"I am a fighter. I want to get back in the team. I will work hard to try and do that, so that is where I am at. I am sure people who know me know I will come back."
Rooney spoke with a confidence and determination that belied the figure painted by Jose Mourinho, who just last week said he felt the need to "protect" his captain having returned from England's trip to Slovakia a different person.
That is not a perspective Rooney shares having grown used to the "massive over-hype" that follow his displays, or, as seen over recent days, being dropped from the United side.
"Does it gee you up? Of course it does," he said. "It's almost like going to an audition when you get turned down - you want to prove yourself to people."
Coming back is one thing, where Rooney is best suited is another.
Sam Allardyce fuelled that debate after the narrow win in Slovakia, expressing surprise at how far his captain had dropped in his midfield role.
Not only is that a position he looked set to avoid having been restored to an attack role at United under Mourinho, the former England boss raised eyebrows by saying: "Wayne played wherever he wanted to" in Trnava.
"It couldn't be further from the truth, I play to instructions," Rooney said, admitting the questions over his role are grating.