Although seemingly every season has brought success since he joined Manchester United from Everton eight years ago, 2011 was nonetheless a standout year for Wayne Rooney.
His goals, and partnership with team-mate Javier Hernandez, guided the Red Devils to a record 19th league title and runners-up spot in the UEFA Champions League following a final defeat by Barcelona. The forward also narrowly missed out on scooping the 2011 FIFA Puskas Award, after his overhead kick against rivals Manchester City was pipped by Neymar at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala in January this year.
While the Premier League is nearing its climax and the championship race with City looks like going all the way until the end of the season, Rooney must also turn his thoughts to this summer’s UEFA EURO 2012.
Once again, the hopes of a nation are pinned firmly on the 26-year-old, who is suspended for the first two group matches against France and Sweden but can return for the final Group D fixture and the knockout stages, should the Three Lions progress to the latter stages. In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Rooney reveals his aims for both club and country in 2012.
FIFA.com: The season has been a bit up and down for Manchester United. How do you see it so far?
Wayne Rooney: Going out of the [UEFA] Champions League was obviously a big disappointment for us, but we are still in a great position in the league, we’re only a couple of points behind and a lot of games to go. We’re confident that we can push on now, and start being a bit more consistent towards the end of the season. Personally, it’s been one of my best goal-scoring seasons. I’ve scored 19 so far, and hopefully I can kick on and score a lot more towards the end of the season.
How would you sum up 2011 for yourself?
It was a good year. Winning the Premier League title was the highest point of the year. It was a great moment for everyone connected to Manchester United. Obviously losing the Champions League final was a big disappointment so we have had highs and lows but, overall, it was a successful year for the club.
We are still in a great position in the league, we’re only a couple of points behind and a lot of games to go. We’re confident that we can push on now.
What targets have you set yourself for 2012?
We want to retain the Premier League and do well in the [UEFA] Europa League. These are the two competitions we are left in and we want to do well, go far and hopefully win them.
In what ways does Sir Alex [Ferguson] help when the going gets tough?
He’s very experienced and a great manager. He knows which players he can speak to and which players he can shout at, if he needs to. He knows how the players react and how to get the best out of them. I think that’s important especially in this day and age. His mentality for the game, his commitment and desire are obviously things that the players try and take on themselves. For me personally, he’s been brilliant. He’s a great leader for our team.
With regards to the national team and the upcoming UEFA EURO 2012, what lessons have you learned from the FIFA World Cup 2010™ in South Africa that will help the team in Poland and Ukraine?
As a team, as a group of players, we go there better off. I feel we’ll be a lot better than we were against Germany. The goal is to try and win the competition - it’s been a long time since England won one. For us, we want to try to create a bit of a history, that’s our main aim.
UEFA reduced your ban to two matches. Do you think your freshness will help England in the final group game and possibly the knockout stages?
Hopefully we can do well in the first two matches that I’ll miss. And then hopefully the manager brings me back in and I’ve got a chance to help us try and win games and help us do well at the tournament. That’s obviously my aim. I think as a team, we aim to try and do that. It will be down to the new manager who he takes to the finals.