Sir Alex Ferguson turned the spotlight on Jordan Henderson's gait but the strides made by the Liverpool midfielder have not been overlooked. "The most improved player in the Premier League this season," according to Brendan Rodgers, and one determined to extend his Anfield transformation to Brazil next summer.
Roy Hodgson is evidently closer to the Liverpool manager's opinion of Henderson than the withering assessment aired in the former Manchester United manager's latest autobiography, selecting the 23-year-old for England's forthcoming friendlies against Chile and Germany at Wembley. Henderson last appeared for England as a substitute in the Euro 2012 quarter-final exit to Italy in Kiev and his recall is deserved recognition for his part in Liverpool's impressive Premier League campaign. Not that he is interested in a simple pat on the back.
"It's a massive boost for me and I'm delighted to be involved," he says. "But when I am there with England I need to make sure that I work hard, do what I have been doing for Liverpool and make sure I get picked again. World Cup places are up for grabs for anyone. If you are doing well and your team is doing well, then people will be looking at you but you have to take the chance.
"Now I have the opportunity to train with England and I have to make sure I am right. Everyone wants to go to a World Cup in Brazil but just going out and playing every week is an inspiration for me really."
Henderson starred again on Saturday as Liverpool responded to defeat at Arsenal by swatting aside Fulham at Anfield, threading a superb pass for Luis Suárez to make it 3-0 before the interval and producing a tireless, threatening display throughout the 4-0 win.
He may have been one of Kenny Dalglish's "substandard buys" in 2011, according to Ferguson, who also wrote that the midfielder's gait "might cause him problems later in his career", but he is the only one of that summer's intake to prosper under Rodgers now that José Enrique has lost his regular first-team role.
The Liverpool manager believes England will receive a more confident, intelligent operator than when Henderson appeared at the European Championship. "I see a young player who is athletically good and technically strong," said Rodgers. "Tactically he is aware of the game now. He can participate in the game, he knows when to move inside and outside. Against Fulham I told him that if he could get forward, [Philippe] Coutinho would penetrate with his passes and he would get chances.
"I told him to use his energy and run off in between the lines. Tactically his understanding of the game is much, much better. That is a massive credit to him because he is working very hard, listening and wanting to be a better player."
An Anfield recovery, as well as England recall, is also reward for Henderson's refusal to give up on his Liverpool career when Rodgers considered an offer from Fulham during his first summer in charge. The Liverpool manager admits: "I remember the conversation I had with him, bless him. We were at the team hotel and it was towards the end of the window. I pulled him in and I told him: 'Listen, I am not pushing you out but this offer has come in.' But I got the response I wanted.
"He told me that he wanted to stay here and fight. I told him I would help him improve as a player and improve his game because he has got all the tools. At 23 years of age he has got his whole career in front of him. It is thanks to his quality and professionalism that he is making marked improvements."
Henderson has waited 17 months to feature in Hodgson's plans again and with his England Under-21 career over, the recent international breaks have been a source of intense frustration. But he has not forgotten Hodgson's show of faith at Euro 2012, when the England manager introduced the midfielder prior to the team's exit on penalties.
"That showed the manager believes in me," adds the Liverpool midfielder. "It was brilliant that he could turn to me and put me on at that stage of such a big game. I came on in extra-time for Scotty Parker, who was getting a bit tired, to give the team some legs in the middle of the park. I feel I have improved since then. I haven't enjoyed watching the Under-21s and the seniors play on TV this season. I have been used to going away with the Under-21s and when I join up with the seniors I want to show I deserve to be there and that I should be picked again."