Rest refreshes rejuvenated Rooney
Wayne Rooney left Manchester United's fitness programme out of his suitcase when he headed off on holiday - and five weeks of strictly-imposed inactivity has been rewarded with a golden spell of form.
Rooney, naturally hyperactive and a victim of boredom during down time in Fabio Capello's Rustenburg lockdown at England's 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa, deliberately kept away from weights and refused to take a single step of road work.
The result has been a devastating start to the season that has brought five goals in three straight Premier League wins as Manchester United top the Premier League in search of their 20th domestic title.
And it was a relaxed Rooney who revealed the secret of his rejuvenation as he joined up with England's squad at their Hertfordshire headquarters for the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria in Sofia on Friday and Wales at Wembley next Tuesday.
Rooney scored a hat-trick as Manchester United put eight past Arsenal at Old Trafford. PHOTO: GETTY
So relaxed, in fact, that even the lavish new growth of hair grafted on to previously barren territory with a summer transplant was not off limits.
Rooney refused to label 2010 his "lost year" - but made no attempt to disguise his delight at seeing the back of a desperate 12 months in which his personal life made headlines and he flirted briefly with the idea of leaving Old Trafford.
He started 2011 with his first goal from open play in eight months in the win at West Bromwich Albion, helped United win the title for a record 19th time and was outstanding even in defeat in the Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley.
But Rooney has moved on to another level in the opening weeks of the new season and Capello will be hoping to feel the benefit in two vital games as England attempt to qualify for Poland and Ukraine next summer.
The England striker said: "I feel so good. I'm really enjoying my football. The best thing for me was that I had five weeks in the summer doing nothing. I did no training at all."
Rooney added: "I think in myself I just wanted to get that rest I haven't had for a while. I made the decision to do no training whatsoever, start my pre-season and work hard from there. I certainly feel that has benefited me.
"I'm the type of person who, if they do no training, could easily put on a lot of weight so I had to watch what I was eating a bit. I was fine though. I was just enjoying my time with the family.
"Honestly, I didn't lift any weights, run, nothing. The fitness coach gave me a programme to follow but... I was a couple of kilos over but it is easy to get off with the pre-season training we do."
Despite the obvious pleasure Rooney is getting from playing the lead role in a Manchester United side strengthened by summer arrivals Ashley Young, David de Gea and Phil Jones, the frustrations of months when he was a stranger to his best form still live in the memory.
He said: "I wouldn't say it was a lost year. During that season we won the league. It was frustrating because I knew I could do better and I was working hard in training and games but things weren't coming off.
"Because of my character it could have been quite easy for me to lose faith and confidence in myself, but I always knew I had the ability to get back to my best and help the team do well. I'm thankful I've been able to do it.
"It's hard if you know you can do things and you're trying but it's not working. It's quite hard to come to terms with that but thankfully I managed to get over it and play some of the best football I've played for a long time.
"I think on New Year's Day I was quite happy to get 2010 behind me and start 2011 by doing well and scoring my first goal in open play for a while at The Hawthorns. From then I felt happy and I was confident I could help the team."
The old Rooney has returned - along with some of that disappearing hair, restored at great expense and with much Twitter fanfare in the close season.
He admitted: "I spend a bit more time in front of the mirror these days. I'm sure a few of you lads in the media will know if you're going bald it's a bit stressful, so I made the decision to get it done - but I won't be like Cristiano Ronaldo."
Form restored. Hair restored. And a happy Rooney back to his best.