This will be a controversial topic for some as Wayne Rooney is the national captain and has been a fixture in the England starting eleven since Euro 2004. He is also the joint England leading goalscorer after drawing level with Sir Bobby Charlton on Saturday. The problem England have had in recent years is the inability to move on, with players staying in the squad for longer than their performances have merited.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for Wayne Rooney in this England set up, and he should certainly be in the squad for Euro 2016, but he should no longer be considered an automatic starter. His form in 2015 hasn’t been excellent, only managing to score four times in the league this calender year. The England captain was once relied upon to score twenty goals a season, but that isn’t his game anyway, as he has lost a yard of pace, and that has limited his movement. The appointment of Louis van Gaal has also seen Rooney asked to play a more disciplined role, which has prevented the striker from playing his natural game. This in turn has lowered his own confidence on the pitch, which is evident when he is playing for England.
The attacking movement and link up has to be a priority for Roy Hodgson before the summer, as he has some very exciting players available to him, but he has yet to find the correct combination. Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Ross Barkley, Daniel Sturridge and Harry Kane will all be vying for starting spots in France. There is a lot of pace and power amongst those players, something that England need as they have been pedestrian at times in recent tournaments. Rooney has been central to England’s attack for over a decade and it might be time for others to step up for the Three Lions.
Rooney has been playing at the top level for 12 years and that will take its toll on his body. It’s unlikely that he will as effective as he was in his peak as his body won’t allow him to. The key to the future of his career is how he adapts to the changes that Van Gaal is trying to make in his game. His club manager knows that Rooney can’t play his natural game anymore, but that he can still be an excellent player if he becomes more disciplined.
The World Cup in Brazil was a disappointment for Roy Hodgson as his side failed to qualify from the group stages, but there was some positivity about their performances. It was Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturrridge who really impressed, while Rooney continued to disappoint. He had a great chance to equalise against Italy in the opening match, but he spurned it, once again frustrating at a tournament.
Under Hodgson, England have looked most dangerous when they have pace on the pitch and a combination of Sturridge, Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain could be the answer in attack. A lot depends on Sturridge’s fitness, but if he does start to play regularly for Liverpool again, then he must be at the centre of England’s plans for the European Championships.
Wayne Rooney has been a fabulous player for over a decade, but he is beginning to regress as a footballer and can’t be considered a guaranteed starter for either club or country. Manchester United are going to suffer for their inability to sign a quality striker this summer and England will suffer if they continue to select Rooney regardless of form. The England captain needs to have a great season for Manchester United, but if he fails to hit the 15 goal mark for the third time in four years, it is time for England to look elsewhere. The Three Lions have a great chance of doing well this summer and getting to the latter stages, but they must be more adaptable, which they haven’t in the past.