England boss Gareth Southgate didn’t look quite as pleased. The air went out of a buoyant England performance very quickly in the second-half, but how could it be maintained when everyone knew the testimonial was about to begin?
Southgate said he would get the man of the hour on before the crowd took an early cut for the tube, and he was as good as his word.
There were 57 minutes gone, when Wayne Rooney, Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier queued on the touchline for their introduction. Rooney replaced Jesse Lingard, who had earlier scored a lovely goal. It was his 120th appearance, but the first of its kind. A ceremonial farewell. A lap of honour by a player the country believed had retired.
There had been a guard of honour and a somewhat underwhelming presentation before the game, and the large empty swathes of seats meant a card montage held aloft by fans appeared to be a representation in morse code.
White dots and dashes appeared randomly behind one goal. It could have been worse. Had some blocks been full but not others, we might have said goodbye to RO N.
He was a great player, though, Rooney and while this was a divisive decision by the FA, nobody was wishing him ill. The crowd willed him to be the influential player of his youth again, to add to his record number of England goals. Instead, after he came on, the United States enjoyed their best spell of the match.
That wasn’t his fault, but it was the result of treating an international like a charity game. England just faded for a time and it was not until Callum Wilson scored the third of the night – converting a cross by Fabian Delph, and making up for some first-half misses – that the hosts took back control.
Rooney had a shot from the edge of the area which brought squeals of anticipation but the easiest of stops for goalkeeper Brad Guzan, and the numbers choosing an earlier train over a final gesture of appreciation suggested there wasn’t the clamour for this occasion the FA had hoped.
Still, England won, nobody got injured, and the result in Zagreb set up a very good game on Sunday. A real game. Farewell, Wayne Rooney. You were one of England’s greatest footballers and, personally, I haven’t seen too many better. But it’s time to move on now.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
England (4-3-3): Pickford (McCarthy 46); Alexander-Arnold, Keane, Dunk, Chilwell (Dier 58); Winks (Loftus-Cheek 70), Delph, Alli (Henderson 58); Sancho, Wilson (Rashford 79), Lingard (Rooney 58)
Subs not used: Kane, Butland, Walker, Sterling, Barkley, Stones
Goals: Lingard 25, Alexander-Arnold 27, Wilson 77
Manager: Gareth Southgate
USA (4-2-3-1): Guzan; Yedlin, Miazga, Brooks, Villafana (Moore 88); McKennie (Lletget 76), Trapp (Acosta 70); Pulisic, Green (Adams 62), Weah (Saief 76); Wood
Subs not used: Carter-Vickers, Delgado, Horvath, Cannon
Manager: Dave Sarachan
Referee: Jesus Gil (Spain).