WAYNE ROONEY MAY have been staunchly defended by England coach Roy Hodgson after the opening 2-1 defeat by Italy in the World Cup, but his performance attracted criticism from former top players and coaches.
Some like former England coach Graham Taylor made allowances for him being played out of position wide on the left by Hodgson while others were less charitable with former England midfielder Alan Mullery calling for the 28-year-old to be dropped.
Mullery echoed comments made by Rooney’s former Manchester United team-mate Paul Scholes, who before the World Cup had queried whether he had already peaked and faced a struggle to get into the first team.
The main criticism of Rooney’s performance revolved not around his play going forward, as he created England’s best chances and had three shots at goal — the most along with Raheem Sterling — but how he often left Leighton Baines exposed at the back.
While Rooney has insisted he is happy out on the left it is a significant change of opinion since he objected to being put there under former United manager Alex Ferguson.
Scholes, who attracted a fair amount of criticism for his remarks, was kinder to Rooney in his blog for bookmakers Paddy Power on Sunday.
“The disappointing thing was not the way Wayne Rooney played but where he was played,” Scholes wrote.
“I don’t blame Wayne one little bit but he was played in three different positions. He’s without a doubt England’s best goalscorer but he was played on the left, played on the right, then in the centre.
“Where’s the confidence in Wayne to say: ‘You’re our main player. You’re our centre forward’? If he plays there, he scores goals.”
Taylor, who coached England from 1990 to 1993 guiding them to the Euro 92 finals but was sacked when they failed to reach the 1994 World Cup, said that Rooney’s performance had been not up to the standards expected of him but he was not solely to blame for that.
“I think when you are a player of Wayne Rooney’s quality and you don’t match those high standards, you are going to get criticised,” said Taylor, who is working for the BBC as a pundit.
“If you are not playing in your normal position it can affect you. I think Wayne should be allowed to be played centrally — he does not like playing wide and, from a personal point of view, I would want to see him play up front. That is his best position.”
(England’s Wayne Rooney during the FIFA World Cup, Group D match at the Arena da Amazonia, Manaus, Brazil – Mike Egerton/PA Wire/Press Association Images)
Mullery, capped 35 times and an integral part of the England team that reached the 1968 European Championship semi-finals and the 1970 World Cup quarter-finals, told the BBC Hodgson should bring in fresher talent for the next group game against Copa America champions Uruguay.
Uruguay, semi-finalists in the 2010 finals, suffered a shock 3-1 defeat by Costa Rica on Saturday, so defeat for either side on Thursday will probably consign them to an early flight home.
- ‘Rooney not enjoying himself’ -
“I don’t think Wayne Rooney should start against Uruguay. He did not look like he was enjoying himself,” said Mullery, who in 1968 earned the unwanted notoriety of becoming the first England footballer to be sent off in a full international when he was red carded in the Euro semi-final.
“If you are playing in a World Cup you should be enjoying it. Yes, he worked hard but how many shots did he have on target?
“Paul Scholes has said he is past his best. He is someone who knows him so well and something clicked for me when he said that.
“I would leave him out because we have to get the balance right. Rooney is a big star but he cannot play wide on the left so we should pick someone who can.”
Former France and Arsenal star striker Thierry Henry told the BBC that it wasn’t so much Rooney’s positional play that should be assessed but the importance of his miss in the second-half.
“I have missed chances like the one Rooney did in the second half at 2-1 down, but Wayne will know that in a game like this one, he has to score there. He didn’t, and that was the turning point for me.”