Despite Sir Alex and Manchester United’s best efforts, it looks like Wayne Rooney will be playing a part in England’s World Cup campaign after all.
But assuming Roo doesn’t have the impact everyone is apparently expecting, who will be England’s saviour?
There are actually a few excellent candidates, partly because of their talent but more because they still have so much to prove at the highest level.
Steven Gerrard may be a doubt for Paraguay, but his staggering heroics in leading Liverpool to the Champions League and FA cup trophies have raised expectations to astronomical proportions. It must be considered a major disappointment if he is not one of the star midfielders of the tournament, but if he is does manage to replicate his inspiring club form then England will surely find themselves in the final at least.
Beckham has enjoyed a trophyless spell since joining Real Madrid, his career beginning to peter out after winning everything there was to win with Manchested United. He has been dubbed a has-been by many but this summer represents an amazing chance for him to cap off his career in a way few players have, and also remind us that he is the only player in the world who can dominate matches simply by crossing the ball.
Joe Cole looks to definitively put an end to ‘show pony’ accusations that plagued his early West Ham and Chelsea careers, and put the finishing touches on an impressive year for club and country. Club team mate John Terry wasn’t particularly impressive in Euro 2004 and, like Gerrard, must bring his club form with Chelsea onto the international stage if England are to get anywhere. Of course, wild cards like Arsenal’s Theo Walcott and Tottenham’s Aaron Lennon will be hoping they get enough time on the pitch to make an impact on unsuspecting nations.
The last piece of the puzzle is, of course, Sven. No one has more to prove than the England manager who we all love to hate, his squads have ranged from uninspiring to downright bizarre and his tactics seem inflexible and ineffective.
If he somehow manages to inspire the players a little, make a couple of smart tactical adjustments and maybe even a timely substitution or two – it could be the soft spoken Swede who actually has the last laugh.