WATFORD: England captain Wayne Rooney called Euro 2016 his ‘biggest test’ as an international player and revealed that he has spoken to newly appointed Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.
“Obviously I’ve spoken to Mourinho. It’s exciting times for Manchester United, and for myself and the other players,” said Rooney when asked about the new man in the Old Trafford hotseat. “He’s one of the best managers in the world and very successful, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Rooney will not play under Mourinho until United’s pre-season tour of China in July at the earliest and in the meantime, he has a sixth major tournament with England to attend to.
The call-up awarded to Marcus Rashford, Rooney’s precocious United teammate, has stirred memories of the former Everton striker’s own stunning emergence as an 18-year-old at Euro 2004 in Portugal.
Now 30, with 110 caps and a record 52 goals to his name, he is the senior figure in the England set-up and is relishing the challenge presented by his first tournament as captain.
“I feel it’s gone well. We were unbeaten in the qualifying campaign and I’ve scored a lot of goals since I’ve been captain,” said Rooney. “But now is the big test. I think this is the biggest test now, going into a tournament. We’re away a long time as a group of players and I need to be a good example to those players and hopefully help us be successful.”
And the experienced skipper is looking to lead by example and help the players with his experience. “I don’t think I have to look after them, but if I can set the right example around the hotel or on the training pitch, then they will see that,” he said. “There are a lot of players going to their first tournament who won’t know what to expect.”
Having had two months’ rest due to a knee injury sustained in mid-February, Rooney says that he has never felt better ahead of a major assignment with England.
“It’s certainly as good as I’ve felt going into a tournament and that’s largely because I’m injury-free,” he said. “In previous tournaments I’ve gone in and I’ve had little concerns, which sometimes does play on your mind, but I have no concerns about that. I’m just looking forward to it.”