One of the defining narratives of England’s World Cup campaign has been how best to use Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United striker can be one of England’s best players when the team play to his strengths, but how can England best do that? Here we analyse Roy Hodgson’s options and let you have your say.
Rooney came under heavy criticism for his performance on the left wing in Manaus. Our interactive heat map shows the Manchester United player’s natural instincts kicked in and he found himself in a more central position than a natural winger would. The result of this is that Leighton Baines was left exposed at left back and had a torrid time in the Amazon. Yet Raheem Sterling did impress in a central role against Italy and relishes the chance to link up with his teammate, Daniel Sturridge, from that position. Furthermore Rooney did put in that wonderful cross that made Sturridge’s goal from this position. Will Roy therefore be tempted to play Rooney out wide again?
Central attacking midfield
There is a lot of clamour to play Rooney as a no. 10 against Uruguay. It is felt that in this role he would be able to best link up with Daniel Sturridge and could thrive creatively. As well as this it would mean that Raheem Sterling (or Alex Oxlade Chamberlain if the Liverpool player hasn’t recovered from his efforts in Manaus) would find themselves up against a stand in right back, due to Maxi Pereira’s suspension. His replacement at right back is likely to be Martín Cáceres, who has fallen from grace after a disappointing few years at Juventus. A more flair based player, such as Sterling or Oxlade-Chamberlain could therefore thrive as England’s left midfielder.
At Manchester United last season Wayne Rooney’s strongest performances came in the absence of Robin van Persie. In these matches Rooney found himself as United’s main creative outlet and goal scoring force and had some of his strongest performances for the red devils. Daniel Sturridge had an excellent season and has not done anything wrong in an England shirt, however he is not the main striker to strike fear into the heart of defences that Wayne Rooney in his devastating finest form can be. Is there thus an argument for dropping Sturridge and letting Rooney loose in the position where he has been strongest over the last year?
On the bench
If we are speculating about dropping Sturridge, why not also speculate about dropping Rooney himself? The 28 year old has not looked at his devastating best in the build up to the tournament as he tries to shake off a knee injury. With plenty of younger and arguably hungrier talent ready to step into all the positions we’ve speculated on, is now the time to give them the chance and let Rooney make an impact from the bench and force his way back into England’s starting XI?
Let us know your thoughts as to where Rooney should play in our survey below.