Jadon Sancho lights up Wayne Rooney’s farewell match for England against USA

England beat USA 3-0 with goals from Jesse Lingard, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Callum Wilson, who scored on his debut

There were glimpses of a familiar fearlessness, flashbacks to the searing pace generated from a standing start, all stocky power and precocious skill to traumatise markers. Wayne Rooney must have seen his youthful self in Jadon Sancho and, having delighted in a fond farewell, departed this stage convinced the baton has been passed on to worthy successors. This had been billed as his night but, in the end, it was the new generation who dazzled.

The former captain’s cameo ultimately amounted to 32 minutes, a period illuminated by one sharp shift on to his left foot to whip away a shot that was claimed, one wonderfully lofted pass for Ruben Loftus-Cheek to gather, and a placed attempt in injury time which so nearly squirmed beyond Brad Guzan only for the goalkeeper to grasp it at full stretch. Rooney’s script did not quite extend to a 54th international goal.

It mattered not, and he played out his time with a broad smile creased across his face, and applause for all corners of the arena. “It’s in very safe hands, from what I’ve seen this week,” he offered in the aftermath. “It’s a great group of young players who have a really bright future. I’m sure in the next few years they will go close to bringing a trophy back. I’ve had my time, it was two years since I last played. I’m proud to be the record goalscorer. I can sit back now and watch them. I’ll be one of the fans supporting them.”

There is so much from which to draw encouragement at present, regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s mouthwatering winner-takes-all Nations League collision with Croatia, when a victory will see England claim the section. Lose, or even score draw, and they will be relegated, but they will tear into that tie with gusto. Sancho is unlikely to start this weekend, but has now served notice of his blistering talent within the confines of Wembley. The 18-year-old brought all the dynamic form that has thrilled so often for Borussia Dortmund since his brave decision to prioritise first-team football over life on the fringes at an all-conquering Manchester City. Some of the winger’s touches were sublime, his quick feet a blur of tricks and flicks to torment a frazzled back-line. So much for nerves on a first senior start for his country.

He will have enjoyed his rat-a-tat passing routines with Rooney as the clock ticked down for the 33-year-old at this level, England’s past and future basking in each other’s company for a brief moment. “Playing with Wayne Rooney was a dream come true,” Sancho said. “He’s a legend and a role model to me. I was a bit nervous ahead of the game and he came over and told me just to express myself because I had nothing to lose.”

It had been Sancho’s calm head among panicked opponents inside the visitors’ cluttered penalty area, and carefully weighted pass for an overlapping Trent Alexander-Arnold, which effectively settled the game. The full-back, only just out of his teens himself, ripped a first England goal gloriously across Guzan and inside the far post, becoming the youngest Liverpool player to score for England since Michael Owen in the process.

Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli were more senior heads among England’s least experienced lineup in 38 years – 94 caps combined in the starting XI while Rooney was still stuck on 119 among the substitutes – with the stalwarts from the summer’s World Cup campaign sprightly around the latest bright young things. Lingard’s sumptuous, curled shot had punctured USA within minutes of Jordan Pickford denying Christian Pulisic at the visitors’ best opportunity. That chance had been sprung from Lewis Dunk’s pang of nerves on debut though, in truth, there was little trepidation to this display until concentration wavered for periods in the second half. The memory instead will be simply of enthusiasm, even delight.

Ben Chilwell was rampant down the left, often combining slickly with Sancho or Alli. Harry Winks was busy and effective on his first home cap. Callum Wilson, on loan at non-league Tamworth six years ago, might have scored early on only to swipe rather tentatively at Lingard’s centre, and was convinced he had won a penalty from Guzan’s challenge moments later, ensuring his left leg made contact with the on-rushing goalkeeper, only for the Spanish official to wave away the appeals. Bournemouth’s first England starter would not be denied his own reward, and forced a volley through Guzan from Fabian Delph’s near-post cross for his final contribution of the night. His display deserved that much.

A third debutant, Alex McCarthy, watched Bobby Wood plant a header over the bar. The Southampton goalkeeper’s parents had not witnessed his first cap as they were apparently still flying back from a trekking holiday in Peru. They missed an occasion Rooney will remember from the pre-match guard of honour, through which he strode with his youngest son, Cass, in his arms, to the reception on the final whistle. He ended up delivering a tearful speech in the dressing room. By the time he sits down back in the States to watch Sunday’s crunch tie, he will be a supporter watching a vibrant, young England team make waves without him.

Thursday 15 November

League A, Group 2: Belgium 2-0 Iceland
A4: Croatia 3-2 Spain
B3: Austria 0-0 Bosnia-Herzegovina
C2: Hungary 2-0 Estonia, Greece 1-0 Finland
D1: Kazakhstan 1-1 Latvia, Andorra 1-1 Georgia
D2: Luxembourg 0-2 Belarus, San Marino 0-1 Moldova

Friday 16 November

League A, Group 1: Netherlands 2-0 France
B1: Slovakia 4-1 Ukraine
B4: Wales 1-2 Denmark
C3: Cyprus 1-1 Bulgaria, Slovenia 1-1 Norway
D4: Gibraltar 2-6 Armenia, Liechtenstein 0-2 FYR Macedonia

Saturday 17 November

League A, Group 3: Italy 0-0 Portugal
B2: Turkey 0-1 Sweden
C1: Albania 0-4 Scotland
C4: Serbia 2-1 Montenegro, Romania 3-0 Lithuania
D3: Azerbaijan 2-0 Faroe Islands, Malta 0-5 Kosovo 

Sunday 18 November

League A, Group 2: Switzerland 5-2 Belgium
A4: England 2-1 Croatia 
B3: Northern Ireland 1-2 Austria 
C2: Hungary 2-0 Finland, Greece 0-1 Estonia
D2: San Marino 0-2 Belarus, Moldova 1-1 Luxembourg 

Monday 19 November

League A, Group 1: Germany 2-2 Netherlands
B1: Czech Republic 1-0 Slovakia
B4: Denmark 0-0 Republic of Ireland
C3: Cyprus 0-2 Norway, Bulgaria 1-1 Slovenia
D1: Georgia 2-1 Kazakhstan, Andorra 0-0 Latvia
D4: FYR Macedonia 4-0 Gibraltar, Liechtenstein 2-2 Armenia

Tuesday 20 November

League A, Group 3: Portugal 1-1 Poland
B2: Sweden 2-0 Russia
C1: Scotland 3-2 Israel
C4: Serbia 4-1 Lithuania, Montenegro 0-1 Romania
D3: Malta 1-1 Faroe Islands, Kosovo 4-0 Azerbaijan

Ups and downs so far

League A
Finals: Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, England
Relegated: Germany, Iceland, Poland, Croatia

League B
Promoted: Ukraine, Sweden, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Denmark
Relegated: Slovakia, Turkey, N Ireland, Rep of Ireland

League C
Promoted: Scotland, Finland, Norway, Serbia
Relegated: Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Cyprus

League D
Promoted: Georgia, Belarus, Kosovo, Macedonia


Dominic Fifield at Wembley

The GuardianTramp

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