Wayne Rooney might not be an automatic choice in Roy Hodgson’s England starting line-up at the World Cup, according to former club and country team mate Paul Scholes.
Attention inevitably focuses on Rooney every time England appear at a major tournament and next month in Brazil will be no different as the Manchester United forward looks to finally make an impact at a World Cup having yet to score in two finals.
Rooney is expected to start England’s opening Group D game against Italy in tandem with Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge but with exciting attacking talents such as Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana all providing options, Scholes believes Rooney will have to be on his toes.
“I’m not saying Wayne needs to be dropped but if his form doesn’t get up to scratch in the warm-ups, or in the first game of the World Cup, it’ll be interesting to see if the England management team has the balls to make that decision,” Scholes said in his column on betting website Paddy Power.
“We have quality forwards in the squad this time. That should give Wayne the competition he needs to spur him on a little more.”
Rooney was disappointing in Germany in 2006, failing to score in the tournament after recovering from a broken foot. He was also poor in South Africa four years later, looking disgruntled and again failing to score.
“He’s got a brilliant scoring record for his country with 38 goals in 89 internationals, but he’s played in eight World Cup games without a goal,” Scholes said.
“You expect more of him. If Wayne is going to be one of the best footballers in the world, this World Cup is where he has to produce.”
Scholes said Rooney needs to concentrate on the things he does best, rather than roam around the pitch wasting energy.
“He needs to use his energy more effectively now as he’s a player who likes to be up front on his own and I don’t think he’s great with partnerships,” Scholes said.
“To get the very best from Wayne in Rio, the manager needs to tell him: ‘dont bother running back. Stay up top. Stay centre forward. Score goals. That’s your job in my team.'”
Looking at next season’s Premier League campaign under United’s new manager Louis van Gaal, Scholes said Rooney will find himself in direct competition with Robin van Persie as the club’s attacking focus.
“It’ll be interesting next season with Louis van Gaal at Manchester United and how he decides to play Wayne,” he said.
“It looks like it might come to a straight choice between Wayne and Robin van Persie.
“I don’t think Wayne will be able to play centre forward until he’s 34 or 35. But he could play centre midfield, possibly, into his mid-thirties. He’s got all the ability to take over my old position at Manchester United.
“He has played some games there, but has never gone on an uninterrupted run. Whether he has the discipline to do it, right now I’m not sure.”