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Oct 9, 2009

Rooney revels in new role under Capello

England striker Wayne Rooney feels Fabio Capello has found the "perfect" role for him in the England team.

Rooney went through a barren run under Steve McClaren, but now the Manchester United striker is the top scorer in European qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with nine goals.

The striker now has 25 international goals despite being aged only 23. Barring injury it seems inevitable he will surpass Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time record of 49 England goals.

Aston Villa striker Emile Heskey has proved to be the perfect foil for the Manchester United forward, and it is a partnership he is enjoying immensely.

"I love playing up front with Emile,'' he said. "He is big, strong and holds the ball up. He allows me and Steven [Gerrard] to get into space, get on the ball and express ourselves. Obviously he has been criticised about his goalscoring but what he brings to the team is different. It is great to play off him.

"This is similar to my first year with England. After those Euros [2004] I got used in different positions. It is not too different now but the manager is allowing us to go forward. If Steven is right up the pitch I can fill in for him and it is the same the other way round. It is good to have that rotation.

"It is the perfect role for me and it is working really well. I just hope this time I can stay fit and do all the training beforehand. That will make a big difference. Football is different for me now. I think about the game a lot more. At 16 there is no fear whatsoever - you just play and enjoy it. But the more games (you play) you wonder about what is going to happen if you win or lose."

Rooney continues to field questions over his temperament on the pitch, with Capello also saying he needs to calm down at times. But Rooney feels he will not lose his head again.

"There is a balance that you need to get right because if you go over the top, you will miss a lot of games through suspension. And if you're too aggressive, you can't really concentrate on the game,'' he said. "The frustration does build up if you are not scoring even if you still play well. I am not saying it makes you do stupid tackles but you do get frustrated.''

The last time England made it to a major finals, at the World Cup in 2006, Rooney was sent off against Portugal for a rash stamp on Ricardo Carvalho. But the ever-lasting image from that incident will be former United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo winking at the bench as Rooney trudged off.

Rooney, however, thinks Ronaldo's antics actually worked in his favour.

"I didn't really get any stick,'' said Rooney. "Ronaldo took a lot of it and I was pleased about that. I still got it when I played for my club but that is just normal. In that instance, I know I could have taken a lot more.''

Ronaldo, of course, will have no chance of being in South Africa unless Portugal beat Hungary on Saturday. A premature exit for the Real Madrid winger would suit Rooney.

"It would be nice to see Portugal not there because they have knocked us out of the last two tournaments,'' reflected Rooney. "Obviously when we didn't qualify for Euro 2008, we got a lot of stick. You have banter with your team-mates.

"But it's important not to go too far because it is an important issue and, to be honest, I am not too bothered whether they are there or not. It is clear for everyone. Ronaldo is definitely the best player. He scores goals and I have watched his first few games for Madrid and he seems to have improved again. He is even passing the ball a lot more!

"At United, people said he didn't run back. But look at what he did going forward. As a team we realised that if he was as good as that going forward, we had to make up for it by going back. That is what happened and we were very successful, so you can't argue.

"I hope I can take my game to the next level as well. Physically, Ronaldo improved a lot over the last three years. He worked hard in the gym and got a lot tougher. I am still trying to improve most areas of my game, especially my link-up play, goalscoring and heading. I should score more often with my head.''

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