United States boss Dave Sarachan is confident the decision by the Football Association to honour Wayne Rooney in no way devalues his side’s friendly against England at Wembley on Thursday.
It is now two years since Rooney, now playing his club football in the US for DC United, won the last of his 119 caps — a record for an England outfield player.
The 33-year-old, also the leading goalscorer for both Manchester United and England, is set to make a farewell appearance to international football as a substitute on Thursday.
But the FA’s decision has been criticised by several former players. Former goalkeeper Peter Shilton, who holds the record for most England appearances with 125, told the BBC that caps should not be “given out like gifts”.
US interim coach Sarachan was far more relaxed about the prospect of Rooney coming off the England bench, joking on Wednesday: “If he scores against us tomorrow I won’t be happy about the decision!”
On a more serious note, Sarachan also told reporters at his pre-match press conference: “I have thought about it because I know it has caused controversy. My feeling on that is maybe a little different.
“I think a player like Wayne Rooney who had such a terrific international career, in the league but in terms of his national team, to have an opportunity to reward him for that as a federation, I kind of applaud that.
“I don’t think it devalues the game… he is coming off the back of a very impactful season in the States.”
Rooney scored 12 goals in 21 appearances for DC United after joining the club in July, helping them climb from the basement of Major League Soccer to the playoffs.
Sarachan, who worked with the likes of England internationals David Beckham and Ashley Cole at LA Galaxy, was in no doubt of Rooney’s on-field value to DC United.
“He was not there as a stunt or on vacation, he was there to play so from that standpoint I have been very impressed,” he said.
“I had the privilege to be with the LA Galaxy for a number of years and manage David and Ashley Cole — they came over as competitors and winners and I think with Rooney it was evident he wanted to step on the field and help his team be better and win.”