Rooney, whose preparation for the match had been engulfed by tabloid allegations about his private life, found the net after ten minutes to help put Fabio Capello's men on top of Group G with two wins out of two. Substitutes Adam Johnson and Darren Bent also scored for the visitors, however, the result was marred by serious injuries to Theo Walcott and Jermain Defoe, who were both carried off on a stretcher.
The result - and Rooney's role in it - left Capello delighted. "I think we played fantastic football in the first half," Capello said. Asked how he rated Rooney's performance, Capello replied: "You saw the game, no? I think he played well. He was at the centre of the play, the centre of the movement. I think the pressure was strong for him but he played well."
Switzerland scored possibly the best goal of the game through substitute Xherdan Shaqiri despite having Stephan Lichtsteiner sent off after 65 minutes.
Rooney, playing in a deep role behind Defoe, took only ten minutes to get on the scoresheet as he side-footed home from six yards following excellent work down the right wing by full-back Glen Johnson. It was the Manchester United striker's first goal in open play since March and his first for England since September 2009. From that moment England dominated first-half possession against a team regarded as their major rivals for qualification from Group G.
They suffered a set-back when Arsenal winger Walcott, who had started the move for Rooney's goal, was injured in the process and subsequently rushed to hospital for X-Rays on an ankle injury. But his replacement, Adam Johnson of Manchester City, continued his good work down the right flank and if anything improved on it.
Defoe wasted one excellent chance from a James Milner cross to put England further ahead and also forced Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio into a fine save as the visitors enjoyed the more constructive possession early on. Switzerland, in comparison, struggled to create chances until David Degen fired over the bar following a period of pressure shortly before half-time, when they brought on Shaqiri in a bid to change the tide.
The tactic certainly worked because the Swiss began to create problems, creating some nervous moments in England's defence, which was missing the injured Rio Ferdinand and John Terry. But when Lichtsteiner was sent off for his second yellow card, a late challenge on Milner when the ball was already going out for a corner in the 65th minute, the game swung away from them.
England made it 2-0 when, with Defoe lying injured, play continued and winger Johnson raced onto a perfect through-ball from Gerrard to expertly round keeper Benaglio. A stunning goal from Shaqiri, curling home from 25 yards seconds later, made it a frantic finale but England ended the night with a sense of satisfaction - especially when Bent, a replacement for the injured Defoe, side-footed home a third two minutes from time.