After another Wayne Rooney performance that left us with more questions than answers, part of the blame has to be on Roy Hodgson who can’t seem to get the best out of his most gifted player. Knowing the qualities the Manchester United forward possesses, why did he think that playing him out wide would get the best out of him?
Many said that England had picked an adventurous side and they had but at the same time they kept it with caution putting Danny Welbeck in and (at least in Hodgson’s mind) playing Rooney out wide who he felt was better tracking back. He was wrong, it’s a misconception that he enjoys going backwards because of his occasional passionate runs to help the defence and playing him there hindered him from playing where he wanted to play. It still seemed odd that Raheem Sterling, who played excellently in the middle and out wide, wasn’t trusted to play on the wing in a position he’s much more accustomed to than Rooney.
He couldn’t quite work out how to stop Antonio Candreva, which was an excellent tactic by Cesare Prandelli, mainly because he wanted to be forward enough to contribute to any counter-attacking football. It should be said that when you’re given a task to do you should stick to it but it’s also understandable that Rooney knows where he affects the game the best and should be allowed to play in that area when he can be so deadly.
Surely in a must-win game against Uruguay on Thursday, Roy Hodgson has to allow Rooney to play through the middle from the start at least. He’s one of the only players not just in our squad but in world football who can produce a piece of magic that can change a game and he needs to show faith in a player that can do things like that.
Look at the faith other managers have shown in their big players. Robin Van Persie, Karim Benzema, Neymar and even Lionel Messi had question marks before the tournament but their bosses showed faith in them and they’ve been rewarded with goals. Wayne now needs that reassuring pat, play him where he wants and tell him you have faith in him to go out there and produce.
Is it a risk? At this point it probably is. He should have done this in the first game because there would be more time to change it but now his hand should be forced and he has to do it. Should he leave him out wide again and England fail, his head will definitely be on the chopping block. Should Rooney fail when given his opportunity then the criticism will be warranted but he’s also just as likely to silence every critic in one fell swoop.
It’s do or die time now for England and Roy Hodgson has to inspire Rooney to help drive this team to qualification. Other teams fear him, give him that fire and he will deliver like he has at club level time and time again. Wayne said he wanted to enjoy this World Cup, it’s time to show our faith in him to produce on the grandest stage of them all.