Wayne Rooney remains an England enigma, 10 years after his spectacular start

Decade of hit and miss: Rooney remains an England enigma, 10 years after his spectacular start

but was his
first goal at a major international tournament for eight years.

Red mist: Rooney was sent off last time he played in Montenegro

Red mist: Rooney was sent off last time he played in Montenegro

Heads we win: Rooney returned to the team after suspension to score against Ukraine

Heads we win: Rooney returned to the team after suspension to score against Ukraine

Samba beaten: Rooney also scored in last month's friendly victory over Brazil

Samba beaten: Rooney also scored in last month's friendly victory over Brazil

Unfortunately, the red cards against Portugal and Montenegro spring more readily to mind.

He compares well with Owen, another teenage prodigy. Rooney has seven fewer goals in 10 fewer games, a ratio he should be confident of boosting tomorrow against San Marino, ranked the world’s worst international team by FIFA.

Beyond this, Rooney’s contribution cannot simply be calculated by goals. He has been up front alone, in a pair, in the hole off the front man and, occasionally, wide. You can even throw in the odd cameo in midfield.

He craves involvement, ever willing to do a job in a different system. It is still the way at Manchester United. Picked against Real Madrid away, he was dropped at home. Is this evidence of his slow conversion from playmaker to workhorse

Workhorse Are Rooney's talents being wasted

Workhorse Are Rooney's talents being wasted

Superstar: Rooney was the sensation of the tournament at Euro 2004

Superstar: Rooney was the sensation of the tournament at Euro 2004

New hero: Rooney's emergence suggested England possessed a world beater

New hero: Rooney's emergence suggested England possessed a world beater

International awakening: Rooney also excelled a year before that, on his competitive debut against Turkey

International awakening: Rooney also excelled a year before that, on his competitive debut against Turkey

Time to celebrate: Rooney has been a regular for England since that star turn against Turkey

Time to celebrate: Rooney has been a regular for England since that star turn against Turkey

Fabio Capello perhaps came closer than others to unlocking the secret for England. Rooney scored half of his 24 competitive England goals for Capello. Nine of them came in nine qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, playing up front with Emile Heskey.

But he travelled to South Africa with questions surrounding his fitness and, it would later emerge, his head in a spin from personal issues.

Under the pressure of comparisons to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, he cut an angry figure, swearing at a female linesman in a practice match, scrawling abusive messages on his golf shoes and sounding off into a TV camera about England fans who booed the team after a goalless draw against Algeria.

Rooney went a year without a goal for England while strike partners came and went: Bobby Zamora, Peter Crouch, Darren Bent, Kevin Davies, Ashley Young, Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck have all had a go since the last World Cup.

Out of form: Ashley Young

Out of form: Ashley Young

Good foil Danny Welbeck

Good foil Danny Welbeck

Forgotten man: Darren Bent

Forgotten man: Darren Bent

When Hodgson took the job last year, he was unequivocal about his star man. ‘We all know Rooney is best as a No 10,’ he said.

‘The fact he’s such a good player and can play in other positions, that’s another matter. From my conversations with him, from all the games I’ve watched him play, he’s extremely dangerous as a second striker.’

Last month, in a friendly against Brazil, Rooney was the spearhead in a 4-3-3 shape designed to accommodate Jack Wilshere. The experiment worked well and the most encouraging aspect of the 2-1 victory was the way that Wilshere, Rooney and Tom Cleverley combined.

Will Hodgson stick to this shape with Wilshere injured or take a step back In two qualifiers with Rooney available in this World Cup campaign, he played in tandem with Welbeck against San Marino and Jermain Defoe in Poland.

Missing link: England are to be without Jack Wilshere

Missing link: England are to be without Jack Wilshere

Again, his flexibility does not help Rooney stamp his identity on an England team.

Gerrard may sympathise — it has happened to him too — and will have his own views on why the 17-year-old who made such an impact on his full England debut did not break into the world elite where Messi and Ronaldo reside.

At 27, Rooney can still leave his mark on international football and paste new images over those red-mist moments with some unforgettable goals.

Where better to start than San Marino Where better to prove a point on Tuesday than Montenegro, scene of his last England meltdown Where better to make an impression than a World Cup in Brazil

VIDEO: SCOTT PARKER DISCUSSES ENGLAND V SAN MARINO