Wayne Rooney‘s miserable start to the 2016-17 season looks set to continue.
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Multiple outlets in the UK are reporting that Rooney, 30, is set to be benched for England’s crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier at Slovenia on Tuesday.
The all-time leading goalscorer for England was booed by his own fans on Saturday during England’s 2-0 win against Malta in front of capacity crowd of close to 90,000 at Wembley.
UPDATE: Southgate has confirmed Rooney benched due to tactical decision, with more defensive Eric Dier taking his place in midfield
Rooney, captain of both England and Manchester United, has already been benched by Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho and it appears England’s interim boss Gareth Southgate is about to follow suit.
With Eric Dier rested at the weekend, it is believed Southgate will bring the Tottenham Hotspur holding midfielder back in against Slovenia to give England some extra solidity in central midfield. Rooney started in central midfield for England on Saturday, a role he played during EURO 2016 and his displays were heavily criticized. With Dier coming back, he’s a more natural central midfielder, especially alongside the attack-minded Dele Alli.
That leaves Rooney as the odd man out and with both central striker Daniel Sturridge and midfield playmaker Alli scoring at the weekend it is unlikely Southgate will drop either of those players in favor of the man who is ranked second all-time in appearances for England.
There’s no doubt that Rooney has lost his mojo for club and country in recent months. He is adapting to change in the way he’s been asked to play and has been chucked in at midfield, then back at striker and then back in midfield.
His talent on the ball is undoubted and with Southgate keeping Rooney on as his captain for his two-month interim spell in charge of the Three Lions, plus praising him this weekend after the abuse Rooney received from England’s fans, he obviously rates Rooney’s ability.
That said, on current form this is a rather easy decision to make. Rooney isn’t at the top of his game and isn’t reach the high levels of performance he’s churned out continuously over the past 14 years. The way he’s been treated (booed by fans and vilified in the press) is unfair but not something that is new to him or he will be impacted by.
Rooney is heading into the twilight of his career and neither his club or country seems to know which position he is now best suited to play and how to get the best out of him.
For me, Rooney should play as a central striker. Even if his pace is no longer one of his main attributes, getting him as close to the goal as possible should always be the aim as he still creates chances and finishes more often than not. The only issues is, with Harry Kane, Sturridge, Jamie Vardy and others fighting for the lone center forward role for England, Rooney may have to accept he is now only a bit-part player for the national team he’s been the talisman of for over a decade.
Whether or not he accepts that fact remains to be seen but England should continue to call him up for the foreseeable future out of respect for all he has achieved thus far in the game. There’s little room for sentiment in the game but when it comes to certain players, they’ve earned the right to remain in the picture. He’s already said he will retire after the 2018 World Cup so what’s the harm in keeping Rooney around for the next few years to pass on a smidgen of the experience he has?
There are few players in England’s squad who have won the UEFA Champions League or Premier League trophy (Daniel Sturridge, Chris Smalling, Joe Hart and Jamie Vardy are the only others to taste PL or UCL glory in their careers) and even if Rooney hasn’t, so far, been able to lead England anywhere close to glory in a big tournament, surely it is still good to have a player like him around the squad?
Rooney, like Bastian Schweinsteiger for Germany and even Landon Donovan for a long time for the USA in the past, falls into that special category.