Roy Hodgson watched Wayne Rooney score his 42nd goal for England and then backed the Manchester United striker to become the nation’s greatest scorer of all time.
Rooney’s first-half penalty in Thursday’s 5-0 win over San Marino moved him to within seven goals of Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time scoring record.
The England captain, who has found the net 42 times for his country, could have had at least a couple more if he had taken his chances, particularly in the second half when he attempted to lob Aldo Simoncini when it would have perhaps easier to slot the ball to the side of the San Marino keeper.
Gary Lineker, second in the list, famously fluffed a chance to equal Charlton’s record in 1992 when he missed a penalty against Brazil, but with so much time on his hands, Rooney is almost certain to surpass the 49-goal mark, according to Hodgson.
“We’d like to think, with the way he is and the footballer he is, he’s got a good few years in him yet,” the England manager said of captain Rooney.
“There are plenty of games left and I don’t think we should put any pressure on him to reach targets early.
“The record won’t play on his mind. The important thing is he keeps playing well and doing a job for the team and working as hard as he did (against San Marino).”
England’s attacking play was slow and ineffective at times in the first half, but there was never any doubt they would overcome San Marino, who have only won one match in history.
The European minnows, who are bottom of the FIFA rankings, rarely crossed the half way line and fell back into a 7-2-1 formation when they did not have the ball.
England fans decided to poke fun at San Marino by choosing Joe Hart, who had just one save to make, as their man of the match in an online poll conducted by team sponsors Vauxhall.
A panel of broadcasters for ITV voted Jack Wilshere man of the match and Hodgson concurred with their decision.
“I wouldn’t disagree with Jack’s award,” Hodgson said.
“His passing was outstanding second half, and he didn’t too badly first half either.”
San Marino coach Pierangelo Manzaroli said before the match that his team were embarking on a “damage-limitation” exercise, but he was happy to restrict England to two goals in the first half.
Phil Jagielka put England in front with a header and Rooney scored his penalty before Danny Welbeck and Andros Townsend got on the score sheet after the break.
Alessandro Della Valle helped England to a final goal when he put the ball into his own net against the Three Lions for the second game running.
“The first half was a great performance for us and, had we been a bit more careful, we might not even have conceded those goals,” Manzaroli said.