Rooney retains Hodgson’s faith
Wayne Rooney may no longer be the main man at Manchester United and there are persistent rumours he may leave Old Trafford in a bid to find regular football but England manager Roy Hodgson has re-iterated his belief in the striker.
Rooney, despite winning the title for his club side in England, has endured a difficult season in which he was left out of big matches by his manager Sir Alex Ferguson - including a Champions League tie against Real Madrid - and often overshadowed by new signing Robin van Persie.
He was also omitted from the last two matches of the campaign after Ferguson revealed the 27-year-old, frustrated at being left on the bench, had verbally asked for a transfer.
In fact, statistics show Rooney hasn’t scored a goal for United since hitting a winner against Reading on 16 March and has managed only five in the league in the whole of this year so far.
By contrast, however, his form for England has been sensational - at least a goal in each of his last five international matches - and he seems certain to start in friendlies at home to the Republic of Ireland in midweek and away to Brazil this weekend after Hodgson underlined his faith in a player who has long been regarded as England’s talisman.
“I can’t comment on club football and his status within his club But I can talk about him as he is when he joins up with me, and how he behaves in our get-togethers, and I find his desire as strong if not stronger than when we first met,” said Hodgson.
“I have nothing but the greatest faith in him. I know he’ll be really desperate to get out and show what a good player he is.
“But of course good players can have bad games, and bad players can have good games. It’s not an exact science - and wanting it doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to get it.
“But my faith in Wayne Rooney has been very strong from the very beginning and it has never wavered. I suppose that’s the best answer to the question.”
Far from thinking about how to replace Rooney, then, Hodgson is more concerned with who should partner him in order to bring the best out of a player who still has the potential to light up World Cups and European Championships but who has suffered so many frustrations at international level over the years.
So far England have opted for Manchester United teammate Danny Welbeck as the perfect foil for him; but with Welbeck injured there are now opportunities for the in-form Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool and Theo Walcott of Arsenal.
“I know where I think it’s best for Wayne to play, and I think there are several candidates to play alongside him,” said Hodgson.
“That might be a position that’s up for grabs. Of course he has to produce good form as well - no-one is guaranteed a place in the future. But everyone knows his ability and I expect him to continue showing that.”
If Rooney opts to stay at Old Trafford - which remains a possibility as new manager David Moyes has tried to convince him to - then Hodgson will need to watch closely to see how often the striker starts matches, especially as Moyes has a reputation for playing only one striker up front. But it’s not an issue that overly concerns him.
“That’s something I have to live with in England,” he said. “The fact is there are a lot of clubs in the country that don’t use many English players. The English players we’ve got do not always play. We’d be limiting our options enormously if I could only pick English players who play regularly for their club.
“Look, I can’t decide which players clubs bring in, and how managers use those players. I have to recognise a player’s ability and believe they’ll show that ability when I give them a chance to play. That’s what I see in Wayne.”