LONDON: Wayne Rooney’s dismal displays for England at the World Cup will quickly become nothing more than a faded memory once the striker gets back into his stride with Manchester United.
That is the verdict of United stars past and present as Rooney prepares to lead United’s bid to regain the Premier League title.
When Cristiano Ronaldo returned to United after the 2006 tournament in Germany, Rooney had to appeal to supporters not to direct their anger towards the Portuguese winger.
Rooney insisted he was not upset with his Old Trafford team-mate, who appeared to encourage the referee to send him off during England’s quarter-final defeat against Portugal.
Four years on and, despite having left United for Real Madrid, Ronaldo has returned the favour by defending Rooney’s record following the United striker’s disappointing effort in South Africa.
"Wayne Rooney tried very hard, but he didn’t play alone," Ronaldo said.
"When it’s not coming, when you don’t score a goal or play well, it is always the big players’ fault. But Wayne is a great player and will do a good job."
Ronaldo is by no means alone in leaping to Rooney’s defence after the former Everton forward failed to score in four appearances at the tournament.
United team-mate Michael Owen has tipped Rooney to get back to his best after recharging his batteries.
In addition, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes the scorer of 131 goals in 282 appearances for the club will answer his critics.
"There was talk of him being the player of the tournament," Ferguson said. "The prelude to the whole thing was that he was going to be the star.
"He was going to outshine Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, all of them. That’s where the level of expectation comes into it.
"But he’s not got great experience of a World Cup really. You wait – in four years’ time you’ll see a different player.
"I think there’ll still be a bit of disappointment in the lad. But I don’t expect a hangover."
Much has been made of Rooney’s failure to score in South Africa. But it is worth remembering that he did not find the net in the previous tournament either, yet still bounced back to score 23 times for United in the 2006-07 season, including two against AC Milan in the Champions League semi-final.
There is no doubt that Ferguson needs Rooney, who turns 25 in October, to have put his international disappointment behind him by the time United launch the season at home to newly-promoted Newcastle on August 16.
After three successive title triumphs, United’s reign as Premier League champions was ended by Chelsea last season.
In addition, United will once again be looking to Rooney to shine on the Champions League stage.
After last April’s quarter-final exit at the hands of Bayern Munich, the forthcoming campaign is all about making up for last season’s disappointments.
Rooney missed United’s pre-season tour of North America after being allowed an extended break following the World Cup, yet his season begins under a cloud after he was photographed smoking and was also seen urinating in public during a night out with friends.
Despite that, Rooney is likely to make an appearance for his club at Wembley on Sunday against Chelsea in the Community Shield, the traditional curtain-raiser for the Premier League season.
Expect Rooney to be pumped-up, hungry and determined to make up for his miserable World Cup.