Football Sport

To Rooney or not to Rooney?

Written by Leanne Lu

Just as interim manager Gareth Southgate had promised, Wayne Rooney was dropped from England’s starting line-up for this yesterday’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia. It was considered a “bold” move by many British pundits, albeit a necessary one given the country’s tendency to blame the side’s failures on one person.  For Rooney, a national hero for the past decade despite boasting no heroic performances to speak of at this level, his time to be the scapegoat is now.

At 30 years of age, Rooney seems like he is heading towards the back-end of his career, not only at national level but also club level where he has created a major headache for Josè Mourinho aat Manchester United. The manager addressed his admiration and respect for Rooney even before he landed this job, but with so much public obsession on the player, any move to demote him threatens to backfire for the manager.

The player’s awkward situation at United in recent weeks – having been relegated to the bench at times – is amplified by the fact that they haven’t been doing too well. He clearly doesn’t have the legs to run lines like he used to and his goal ratio has also dropped in recent seasons.

By withdrawing him into the midfield last year, his former manager Louis Van Gaal thought he had found a way to avoid clashing with a player of such esteem. But the truth is, Rooney will never play like Juan Mata at No 10, just like he can’t play like Dele Alli in that position at national level. After all, Rooney was a natural No 9, so his shift from the forward line to a deeper position was always going to be much harder than Steven Gerrard’s transition from box-to-box midfielder to holding player.



From technical side to tactical side, the football world is a completely different place in the midfield. Rooney can of, course, play there – anyone can – but he is not an outstanding midfielder after all, a fact that frustrates many fans as they thought a world-class player should be some sort of superman no matter where he plays.

Replacing Rooney with Eric Dier for England, Southgate used someone who is a “natural” holding midfielder as well as being much younger, but in the end, England without Wayne Rooney was as mediocre as England with him. In the second half, Rooney was substituted on for Alli but he failed to pose any influence on the game, which finished 0-0 in a largely  uninspiring spectacle.

The fact is: England’s problem is rooted much deeper than any one player. The loser’s mentality, the conflict between philosophies of English football and continental ones combined with the poisonous nature of the British mass media have condemned England to their recent failures.

To Rooney or not to Rooney? It may not be the question after all.