The English press has a bad habit of building those in soccer up that aren’t ready, and tearing those down who are close to reaching iconic status. With no person has this trend been more evident than with Wayne Rooney who rightly will be considered one of England’s greats when his playing career is in the rear view mirror but currently gets dogged almost every time he fails to score for Manchester United, or when England underachieves in a major tournament.

Rooney is a lightning rod for various reasons. As the one truly identifiable English player of his generation outside the British Isles, he had carried the weight of an underachieving football nation on his shoulders. When England underperforms, it “must be down to Rooney” according to a convenient narrative pushed by tabloid journalists from Fleet Street. At this point, it is worth noting that Rooney’s background as a Scouser that supported Everton and then moved to Manchester United as a teenager doesn’t fit the London-centric view of many in the English press.

The expectations around Rooney at every major tournament is borderline madness. The English press sets, in many cases, as a high a bar for Rooney as the Argentine press does for Lionel Messi. It simply isn’t fair as Rooney has been surrounded by a changing cast of characters while on England duty, players simply not up to his world-class level. At times, Rooney’s quality has brought the best out of his teammates and his willingness to embrace playing in different places on the pitch is laudable.

Ultimately, Rooney is a player that needs the ball at his feet but England’s inability to develop another top-of-the-line striker in the last decade has forced the Manchester United man to play either as a forward or hot have a player of complementary talents to play off of when deployed in midfield.

At Manchester United in the last few seasons, Rooney has suffered from the same sort of inconsistent squad selection, shuffling in and out of players, and undefined tactical role that has often plagued his England career. Still the player has scored 49 goals for the Three Lions, an impressive haul irrespective of circumstance. Still, the coverage of Rooney’s accomplishment in tying the all-time goal scoring record for England has contained qualifiers, which consistently mention unfulfilled promise.

SEE MORE: The question of where to play Wayne Rooney continues as ‘striker’ ties goalscoring record.

It is galling as an observer of Rooney since his early days as a professional at Everton how this narrative has played out. Rooney is almost always portrayed as either inconsistent or an underachiever. His purported failing is shouted loud and wide across Britain and the world on a regular basis. No player in history has been subjected to as long a sustained critique from a negative perspective from the English press as Rooney. It is impossible to think that the narrative has not impacted the player’s confidence at times.

Sir Alex Ferguson, were he were still managing Manchester United, might have convinced Rooney by this point in time that continuing to toil for England without any sort of just reward or appreciation was impacting his psychology and club form. But Rooney has persisted to become one of England’s greatest ever players despite the constant critiques of his play. He is one Manchester United’s all-time greats as well.