England said goodbye to an icon Thursday night as Wayne Rooney took the pitch at Wembley Stadium for the last time as a Three Lions player. The match marked a ceremonial farewell for a star who changed the game in England at both the club and national level.
After much anticipation, Rooney entered into the friendly against the United States in the 58th minute, subbing on for former Manchester United teammate Jesse Lingard, who had already scored in what would eventually be a 3-0 victory for the Three Lions. Rooney found a handful of promising chances to score in his sendoff—including a strike from inside the penalty box in stoppage time that was brilliantly saved by American goalkeeper Brad Guzan—but for the forward, the final appearance wasn’t about scoring one last goal for England. It was about honoring a major part of his career and saying goodbye to the Three Lions fans who have supported him over the years.
“The FA are celebrating players who have left their mark on international football for England. It never happened in the past, which it should have," Rooney said of the FA giving icons, like himself, a final honorary appearance and opportunity to bid the fans farewell.
Rooney made his England debut fifteen years ago. Since then, he has scored 53 goals for the Three Lions in 120 caps. He holds a number of records for England’s National Team, including most goals scored, and remains the youngest player to score for England at the senior level.
Now, as Rooney reflects on his England career and considers the Three Lions' future, the forward is excited about England's pipeline of young talent, and believes his national team records may even be broken in the near future.
“Hopefully there are a lot of the younger lads—Harry [Kane] coming through, Ross [Barkley], Raheem [Sterling], who can come closer [to my record] and even pass me in the future,” Rooney said.
England manager Gareth Southgate was impressed with Rooney’s performance against the US, but also with his leadership and dedication to helping some of England’s young stars.
“He has been brilliant, the time he has given to all of the players,” Southgate said. “He had some lovely touches, a couple of really exquisite through-balls, and we were a yard to the left of Brad Guzan from a fairytale ending.”
Rooney, who led the Black-and-Red in goals in 2018, may not have gotten his fairytale-ending goal in his final cap, but the icon was grateful to suit up for the Three Lions one last time and offer his thanks to his teammates and the fans in the closing of his historic national team chapter.
“Tonight was great,” Rooney said to Sky Sports after the match. “It was a great way to finish off my international career.”