It ended with Wayne Rooney doing what he often did in the good days and the bad for England, which was taking matters into his own hands and roaming for whatever chances he could find – a fitting tribute, in many ways, to the national team he knew than any number of presentations.
There was no sign-off goal No 54 for Rooney as he finally walked away into the Wembley night, a man who might look back and say he was born at the wrong time for England – which is, of course, assuming there will ever be a right time. Even so, it seems that already the old regrets and recriminations are being buried and in front of a sparse Wembley crowd he thoroughly enjoyed the moment, joined beforehand by his wife Coleen and their four sons, and welcomed back with love and appreciation.
On so many Wembley nights over the years the chance would present itself and Rooney would bury it but by the end of this game it hardly seemed to matter that it was not going to finish that way for one last time. As the final whistle drew close he was smiling and joking with team-mates and opponents which was not something we saw often with Rooney in an England shirt. His job was already done, and at last he was enjoying the occasion - which is no less than he deserved.
All told it was a very mediocre United States team facing the most inexperienced England side – just 94 caps between the XI that started – fielded in 38 years. There were debuts for Lewis Dunk and Callum Wilson, who scored on his big night, as well as goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and a first start for Jadon Sancho. When at last Rooney came on with 32 minutes of regulation time left the US had failed to do much at all, and their one achievement might have been stopping England’s record goalscorer from notching one final time.
As Spain’s Nations League tie against Croatia tipped one way and then the other, ending in defeat for Luis Enrique’s side, one was reminded why the international game chose largely to turn its back on friendlies like this against the US, played at half pace and a mismatch of quality. England can win their Nations League group if they beat Croatia on Sunday although the stakes are high - a scoring draw at Wembley will see England relegated to the second tier League B.
For Southgate a remarkable year could yet see his team on their way to another finals next summer if they can beat Croatia, their World Cup semi-final conquerors – a game for which Wembley will be sold out. Overcoming Luka Modric et al in front of their own crowd will feel like evidence of further progress, one more sign that this is a team that can win big games after the Russia adventure and then victory over Spain in Seville last month. It would certainly be going out with a bang.
Southgate referred to the US as “a good level of team” against which to test his young players which was just him being polite. The visitors barely touched the ball in the early stages and when they did they coughed up possession very easily. Southgate had selected this side with Sunday in mind, he said afterwards, and it was effectively the B-team he picked albeit including Dele Alli who may not be sure of a start on Sunday.
There were a few points that Southgate said he wanted to make afterwards but there was a farewell speech from Rooney that took precedence. England had changed a lot through the second half, starting with McCarthy replacing Jordan Pickford at half-time and the original captain Fabian Delph moving from centre midfield to left-back. Rooney started at right wing when he came on, then moved to centre-forward and by the end was chasing that last elusive chance wherever it took him.
If there is to be a consideration for Southgate when it comes to picking the team for Sunday then he will surely think about Sancho who was relentless on the right wing. Alexander-Arnold edged the vote for the man of the match but both of them terrorised the left side of the US defence, especially in the first half with the teenager laying on the goal for the Liverpool right-back.
It was a barrage of England pressure for the first five minutes with US barely able to get a foot on the ball. The Spanish referee Jesus Gil Manzano inexplicably turned down a clear penalty after 10 minutes when Wilson nudged the ball past Brad Guzan and the former Premier League goalkeeper, now at Atlanta United in Major League Soccer, got enough of the Englishman’s legs to warrant the decision.
The US full-back Jorge Villafana was overlapped for the Alexander-Arnold, played in by the teenager who confidently delayed his pass for the Liverpool man to drill his first senior international goal past Guzan. Two minutes earlier, Lingard had swept his trademark accomplished right foot diagonal shot beyond Guzan from just inside the area on the left side.
At times it did feel a little too easy for England against a US side which is short on experience and building for the future. The best player on the away side, Christian Pulisic, the 20-year-old from Borussia Dortmund, did managed to run through five English defenders just before the first goal, taking advantage of Dunk’s slip and Michael Keane’s decision to appeal rather than get back into position. Pickford saved well on that occasion.
When at last Rooney came on there was a demand for him to have the ball at all times. He switched one onto his right foot on 71 minutes and dragged his shot. He lunged at another in time added on at the end but came up just too short. In the meantime Wilson had flicked in a third for England at the near post when Delph had crossed from the left. Rooney was just behind the Bournemouth striker and first to the celebrations – his last few moments as an England player glad and carefree.
We finish with Gareth Southgate
"Some of the attacking play, particularly in the first half, was very exciting. Good interplay around their penalty area, we could have scored more. I didn't like us towards the end of the game, too open and ill disciplined. Could have been better, but we have some real positives to take from it and I was delighted for Callum Wilson.
"We're talking a lot about what playing for England means, respecting the shirt and respecting what went before. We've given Wayne a tribute he deserved, had it gone a yard wider of Guzan it would have been even better. You saw some moments of real quality from him. His humility, given everything he's done in the game, he mucked in with the group, he trained the same as everybody else, he was tracking back in the game and he showed what a top player mentality he's had.
"We've got really good competition for places and it was a good test for those players. A lot of pleasing things and exciting attacking play.
"Sunday is a brilliant game now, it's what the Nations League concept was all about. It's a really good one for everybody to look forward to."
Callum Wilson reflects on a debut goal
"I've got no words at the moment. It hasn't sunk in. There was an opportunity in front of me and I just tried to grasp it. I'm my biggest critic so if I'd have been disappointed overall with not taking my chances but thankfully that one went in and I can reflect on the night in a positive way. I'll treasure it for the rest of my life."
"It went as I thought it would. Being around the players the last few days to see how they're working and improving has been great. Tonight was a great way to finish off my international career. The lads played brilliantly, it was a great game, unfortunately I couldn't get a goal.
"I'm proud to have played for England so many times and be the record goalscorer. Croatia beating Spain gives the lads a great chance to go to another semi-final next summer"
Full time - England 3 USA 0
They came to praise Wayne Rooney, but once again left talking about the generation of players that succeeded him.
Jesse Lingard crowned a great personal first half with a 20 yarder into the top corner. Trent Alexander-Arnold was the best player on the pitch, and his first international goal flew in like a shell straight after Lingard's. Then, just as the whole thing threatened to descend into a complete circus, Callum Wilson also got off the mark on his international debut with the most difficult of the three chances he had on the night.
Against a US team barely a shadow of its former self, and in an atmosphere more akin to a school sports day, concentration lapsed at times and Pulisic will reflect he should have done more when through on Pickford at 0-0.
Croatia's late winner against Spain in the Nations League sets up a mouth-watering Sunday game of real meaning, after tonight's festivities.
90+2 mins - England 3 USA 0 - Rooney goes close
Wembley nearly gets the moment it's craving, with Rooney cutting back and creating space for a low shot from 12 yards. Guzan dives right and saves. The swine.
Next attack, Rooney chucks himself at a near post cross, but can't reach it. Not any more.
89 mins - England 3 USA 0 - MOTM
Gary Neville awards Trent Alexander-Arnold the man of the match award and he's absolutely right. I'm tired just watching him. Relentless all night, up and down the right side, best England defender and one of their most potent attackers at the same time. Superb.
Three minutes added. Come on ref we've all had a drink.
85 mins - England 3 USA 0 - Alexander-Arnold close again
Rooney nearly gets an assist, lifting one into the back post for Alexander-Arnold who has been up and down this right side all night and finds himself in a goalscoring position once more. He tries to cut one back, receives a rebound back, tries to bundle it through Guzan, the chance goes begging.
81 mins - England 3 USA 0 - Croatia score late
Croatia have made it 3-2 in injury time against Spain. They join England on four points with Spain ahead on six in the Nations League. England meet Croatia here at Wembley on Sunday.
78 mins - England 3 USA 0 - Subs
Just in the nick of time, because Rashford was being prepared to replace Wilson and that has happened now. Scored with his last touch of the game. After fighting his way back from two career-threatening knee injuries, the former Coventry man can be proud of where he's got to and what he's achieved tonight.
GOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL - ENGLAND 3 USA 0 (Callum Wilson 77 mins)
Callum Wilson has his debut goal. Lovely moment. He's been running across his man at the near post all night and after a couple of misses he's converted the hardest chance, getting a toe on the ball having gone across the front of the centre half and beating Guzan from a tight angle.
75 mins - England 2 USA 0 - Chances
Loftus-Cheek, perhaps blinkered by the idea of his first England goal, has a shot blocked when he should square it to Wilson. When Alexander-Arnold fizzes a cross in towards the Bournemouth man he can't get a firm enough touch on it to convert for 3-0.
70 mins - England 2 USA 0 - Pitch invasion
Now, of course, if you dare to go within three quarters of a miles of Wembley Stadium with a rucksack these days you're immediately set upon by a group of hired heavies who seize the bag, remove the money from your bank account and repossess your house less you bring about the end of the world with work lap top and lunch box. Run on the pitch during the match though? That's fine apparently, knock yourself out with that one, fill your boots.
England use the interruption to bring on Ruben Loftus-Cheek for Harry Winks as it's past his bed time.
Game's a bit of a nonsense now to be honest with you. Who would have thought it?
66 mins - England 2 USA 0 - Near US miss
Much better from the US this half in fairness. England a bit sleepy after Weah wins a corner and gets it taken quickly. Pulisic crosses for Wood to plant a firm header over from close range. Should score.
65 mins - England 2 USA 0 - Postcard from Croatia
Spain equalise from the penalty spot in Zagreb, Ramos makes it 2-2.
61 mins - England 2 USA 0 - US changes
Tyler Adams, who judging by the response to the US team announcement on social media many would like to have seen start, is coming on for the visitors. Green goes off.
Rooney rolling back the years by charging back into a defensive area and committing a foul on Pulisic. Dunk heads the free kick away but Pulisic comes again, robbing Alexander-Arnold as he tries to shepherd it away and then hitting a low shot that's deflected wide.
58 mins - England 2 USA 0 - Rooney on
Rooney does make it onto the pitch now, along with Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson. Massive response from the crowd. Alli, Chilwell and the excellent Lingard get first use of the shower gel.
Croatia 2 Spain 1 in other news.
54 mins - England 2 USA 0 - Lingard close to a second
Lingard feeds it wide to Chilwell and receives the return pass for a firm shot from 12 yards out. Blocked.
Dier and Henderson are imminent from the bench.
52 mins - England 2 USA 0 - Sancho denied
Looks for one glorious moment like Sancho is going to go screaming through onto Lingard's pass but a telescopic leg stretches out at the last minute and blocks the pass.
It's like waiting for Jim White to come out on transfer deadline day this to be honest. You know it's coming, you know it's going to be mega cringe, you know you're going to hate it, but you just wish they'd get on with it.
47 mins - England 2 USA 0 - More of the same
An early trip to the byline and cut back from Wilson comes to nothing, but in the next attack Alexander-Arnold hangs a high one in on that unstable defence and it causes chaos. Wilson will maybe reflect he should have tried to meet it before it bounced. Lingard follows in and pokes wide.
Second half underway - England 2 USA 0
Meanwhile, in the Nations Legaue, Croatia 1 Spain 1. That puts Spain top of our group on seven points, England with a game in hand on four, Croatia bottom with two. England play Croatia here on Sunday.
Back at Wembley, Alex McCarthy replaces Pickford in goal. Not sure if he's left his water bottle homework for his replacement or not...
It may be a friendly, but Jordan Pickford has still done his homework �� pic.twitter.com/ONPQpr8gIm— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) November 15, 2018
Half time - England 2 USA 0
And you wonder whether that might be as good as it gets as we prepare for the usual parade of substitutes in the second half.
England have flooded forwards, looking quick, incisive and dangerous. They scored twice in little over a minute - crisp, clean strikes from first Lingard and then Alexander-Arnold. Brad Guzan has been in eccentric form, his goal leading a charmed life.
But, for all that, Pulisic was clean through on goal and denied by Pickford at 0-0 and Green has drawn another save from the Everton keeper since.
Anyway, it's about to descend into a testimonial match so we'll take what we've had so far and treasure it.
44 mins - England 2 USA 0
Martin Tyler making a Hawaii 2.0 joke tells us it's easing down to half time. It's been an odd game. England so vastly superior there hardly seems any point, and yet every now and again falling apart at the back and letting a lively US attack in for clear sights of goal. The visitors' defence, considering the national outlay on it, has been all over the show from the first minute.
35 mins - England 2 USA 0 - Another near miss
A little complacency and over-confidence sees Delph crunched by Trapp in a bad area of the pitch and the ball breaks to Green whose powerful shot from the edge of the box is beaten out by Pickford. Delph not happy with the tackle, which had a 1980s Mark Dennis feel to it, but did take the ball cleanly.
31 mins - England 2 USA 0 - No further goals
Nothing much has happened for five minutes. Boooo.
GOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL - ENGLAND 2 USA 0 (Trent Alexander-Arnold 26 mins)
Raining goals now. England straight back to the heart of a rickety looking visiting defence where Sancho lays a deft ball into the path of the onrushing Alexander-Arnold who fizzes his first international goal across Guzan and into the far bottom corner. Two in a minute and a bit. It had been coming.
GOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLL - ENGLAND 1 USA 0 (Jesse Lingard 25 mins)
You may remember this goal from such World Cup games as England 6 Panama 1 - Jesse Lingard, picking the ball up on the left corner of the area, opening his body to widen the angle, and then seeking out the far top corner with his right foot. Lovely goal.
23 mins - England 0 USA 0 - USA spring to life
Pulisic decides he's had enough of this, and does the whole thing himself - playing a through ball, and then running onto it himself, leaving a confused sea of defenders appealing for offside in his wake. Write the theme tune, sing the them tune. Pickford, now one on one with the star visitor, stands up and makes a wonderful save.
19 mins - England 0 USA 0 - Guzan in the thick of it
A first sight of Pulisic ends with a cross into the England goalmouth which Pickford claims cleanly. Back to the other end, Guzan comes for a cross and decides he's got enough time to bounce the ball and catch it at the second attempt despite the close attention of several England forwards.
That's the Guzan we remember so well from his Premier League days. Moments of sheer brilliance followed by moments of dark comedy. I've missed him. The Aston Villa fans whose stomach ulcers churned enough acid to burn a hole in the hull of a ship during his time there, probably less so.
12 mins - England 0 USA 0 - Lingard strikes
Total one way traffic, in behind the full backs time and time and time again. Lingard this time strikes from an angle after being played through in the right channel. Guzan beats it away. US go up the other end and win their first corner but its brief respite.
10 mins - England 0 USA 0 - Wilson penalty appeal
Pretty big one as well as Guzan springs from his line and launches into a foolish and needless slide on Wilson as he's about to run out of space on the byline wide in the penalty box. Wilson knows it's coming, everybody in the ground knew it was coming, but he leaves his leg there rather too obviously for the keeper to clear out and the referee gives the benefit of the doubt to the US.
8 mins - England 0 USA 0 - Wilson sitter missed
Callum Wilson could, and should, have a goal within eight minutes of his debut beginning. Guzan makes a hash of things on the edge of his own box, Lingard crosses from the right as he tries to scramble back, Wilson is unmarked seven yards out but misses his kick.
6 mins - England 0 USA 0 - Sancho warming to the task
On full England debut at Wembley, Jadon Sancho gives a hint of what hopefully may be to come by dragging Yedlin out into some deep water wide left and skipping round him into the area via a one two with Alli. US muscle up and cope with the danger. Looks confident.
3 mins - England 0 USA 0 - first corner
England continue to push on, forcing their first corner of the game which is played into the near post by Chilwell and blocked away. Not for long though, corner number two from the other side is soon forthcoming. This one is met firmly on the outswing by Alli who thinks he's scored but former Villa keeper Brad Guzan performs a miracle to get it onto the underside of the bar.
Lino seems to be indicating it had swung out before it got to all of that. Quite a save though. Anyway, Martin Tyler has had a crack at an American accented "soccer" and that's the real quiz.
England 0 USA 0 - Kick Off
Jesse Lingard gets us underway. England go straight on the front foot, Ben Chilwell whips a cross right through the goalmouth, Alexander-Arnold retrieves it on the far side and does likewise. US scramble it away, Delph has a shot blocked. We've played 28 seconds.
Rooney emerges with his four sons to receive a trophy from Harry Kane and FA chairman Greg Clarke. He receives a standing ovation from both teams and all four sides of the ground.
Time for the anthems now. No kneeling down lads, he might not let you back in.
Teams in the tunnel
Here we go then. Looks like there's going to be a bit of a palaver beforehand but we've made it as far as the pitch and Martin Tyler commentary so we're nearly there.
On the controversy over his selection...
"It's the first time England have done it. There will be people with their opinions, agreeing or not agreeing. My name brings a bit of controversy with it and that's part of it. It's been good to see how it's changed over the last couple of years, Gareth is doing a fantastic job."
On his best England team mates...
"Not so much for England, for Man Utd it was Scholes. For England it was Gerrard, he got us through games. The period after we lost a lot of players like Becks and Rio it was me, Stevie and Frank left and Stevie pulled us through games."
On highs and lows...
"Euro 2004, I was in form. If I'd stayed fit I believe we'd have won it. 2006 I should never have gone, I had a broken foot. Watching the penalties against Portugal I knew I'd let everybody down, watching the penalties I knew if we got to the final I'd be suspended and if we lost it would be my fault so it was a terrible, low moment."
Still turning me on
Pray silence please, for Sir Gareth of Southgate.
"It's an opportunity to have a look at some players we haven't worked with before. Three debutants, some exciting young players we wanted to have a look at and see how they respond against a young and energetic side. They're here on merit. Hopefully they've felt comfortable in the environment, often playing for England isn't about the opposition it's about how you cope with wearing the shirt and playing at Wembley.
"It's been great to have Wayne with us this week to pass on some of his gold dust. We've had a nice moment back at the team hotel where he's presented the new boys with their shirts and talked about his memories of his debut and time with England. We'll look to give him 25-30 minutes amidst some changes later in the game. We need to give some players some minutes ahead of Croatia on Sunday so we have a number of objectives."
Cap wise, the starting eleven is the least experienced England team since the defeat to Australia at Upton Park in 2003. Ah the glory days of Sven Goran Eriksson's approach to international friendlies, now that really was devaluing caps. Look at the state of this...
James (Robinson 45), Neville (Mills 45), Ferdinand (Brown 45), Campbell (King 45), Ashley Cole (Konchesky 45), Beckham (Hargreaves 45), Lampard (Murphy 45), Scholes (Jenas 45), Dyer (Vassell 45), Beattie (Jeffers 45), Owen (Rooney 45).
Ironically, Rooney's first England cap that one, and now here he is earning his 120th amidst a similar debate...
Gary Neville has just told us: "It's the first time the FA has done something like this and ideally it would have happened 16 months ago closer to his retirement date, it's made people quite cynical about it. The one thing I was surprised about was that Gareth went for it having tried so hard to move things on from the past. I'm neutral. We do things like this to honour players at club level so why not at international?"
Aaaaaand your England team...
Sorry, had a Wayne Rooney montage to sit through. The England starting XI looks like this...
Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Keane, Dunk, Chilwell; Winks, Delph, Alli; Sancho, Wilson, Lingard.
Lewis Dunk the first Brighton player to play for England since Steve Foster in 1982. Callum Wilson the first ever Bournemouth start for England.
And as I finish musing over the state of the team, the US announce their line-up, which doesn't include Tyler Adams from the New York Red Bulls which hasn't gone down well on the Twitter.
Guzan; Yedlin, Miazga, Brooks, Villafana; McKennie, Trapp; Pulisic, Weah, Green; Wood.
Trapp over Adams? Please get a real coach anytime now— Ryan Chisholm (@ryanchisholm3) November 15, 2018
Get Trapp out put Adams in!! Come on man. Is Klinnsman back as coach or something??— GMac (@CuseFan247) November 15, 2018
US in flux
Team news to follow shortly, though we of course know already that Man City's Fabian Delph will captain his country for the first time tonight.
First though a word on the visitors, who one year on from their failure to qualify for the World Cup that England excelled in are still without a manager. Dave Sarachan has been in interim (caretaker to you and I) charge since Bruce Arena resigned in October last year and remains there to this day.
There have been valid reasons for the delay - elections in the country's Soccer Federation, a successful bid to host the 2026 World Cup to see through, a wait for general manager Earnie Stewart to see out his contract with Philadelphia Union and start work in August. But in that time leading candidates have slipped away, most notably the early favourite Juan Carlos Osorio who has taken over Paraguay instead.
All eyes are on Christian Pulisic, the 20-year-old Dortmund wonderkid expected to attack England from the American right this evening, but the household Premier League names like Brad Friedel, Landon Donovan , Clint Dempsey, Brian McBride and others are long gone with little by way of replacement. Just as the MLS grows in stature and quality, so the national team has wilted from highs of a World Cup quarter final in 2002 and Confederations Cup final in 2009 to the rudderless ship we find drifting our way this evening.
Dare we say they're looking for somebody to make American Soccer great again?
Ok, sorry, my bad.
Hello, good evening and welcome...
... to the first annual Roo-Fest, which as far as we're able to tell is an international football friendly dressed up as a charity match (from which the charity will receive none of the ticket money) dressed up as a tribute to Wayne Rooney for all his goals and that.
This has absolutely not been done, you understand, because paying to tackle the Metropolitan Line in Thursday rush hour and sit through an international friendly with a still-managerless United States team on a cold November night is about appetising as gargling cold cat wee and nobody had bought any tickets. That much has been made very, very clear.
But basically it's like Wayne Rooney's birthday party. Come in, help yourself to cake (there'll be loads of cake), and later all of Wayne's friends will be out on what remains of the back lawn for a football game of sorts.
Wayne's even going to play a bit himself towards the end, which is lovely for everybody, and means that an England team that reinvented itself as an attractive, likeable, committed, intelligent, attacking, youthful force in world football after decades of decline - reaching a World Cup semi-final for the first time since 1990 under the guidance of an astute, forward-thinking young manager in the process - can see that triumphant year out by paying homage to a long-standing member of the former team we call came to loathe watching so much.
Kick off, such as it is, is at 20.00, and I, for one, can't wait.
'Rooney! Rooney! Rooney!'
Good evening and welcome to the 'Wayne Rooney Show', live from Wembley.
As I'm sure you are all aware by now, Rooney will wear the captain's armband and England No 10 shirt for the last time on a celebratory night that Gareth Southgate believes befits one of the country's best ever players.
The Three Lions' all-time top scorer and most-capped outfield player will come on for his 120th and final international appearance in tonight's friendly against the United States.
Rooney is set to be joined by his children during a pre-match guard of honour that will end with him collecting a memento from Football Association chairman Greg Clarke, before returning to the field in the second half as skipper.
The way his record-breaking international career is being recognised in the Wayne Rooney Foundation International has divided opinion, which Southgate believes highlights the lack of appreciation for the DC United forward.
"I think that has been clear this week - it has been disappointing to see him almost have to defend his inclusion in the game but that is where we are.
"The more important thing is that within the England group we value what he has done, when you are in the dressing room and share the dressing room with someone you know.
"The hardest thing in football is to cross the white line and it is incredibly hard when you are the person who is expected to deliver.
"Very few people in the world can appreciate what that feels like, very different to run of the mill players like me who played for England."
Southgate intends to experiment with Sunday's Nations League encounter against Croatia looming large, with Callum Wilson, Lewis Dunk and Alex McCarthy set to make their debuts.
Joe Gomez will not be risked with Sunday's match in mind, while Luke Shaw will be assessed due to a minor complaint.