Paul Scholes exclusive: If Ross Barkley is the new Wayne Rooney let him off the leash against Italy

The Manchester United legend hails Everton's attacking midfielder as the man who can do some serious damage to the Italians in Manaus


None of the big teams fear England in this World Cup. Let’s give them something to worry about. Ross Barkley must start.

This could be just me, but how do England play football? I don’t know. It seems there’s speculation before every game about how we are going to approach the match tactically.

Two up front? One up front? Wide players? Holding midfielders?

The strength of the England squad is this new breed of players who are enthusiastic, athletic and attack-minded. There is no point taking people like Raheem Sterling or Barkley (above) to Brazil ‘for the experience’. Play them. Some might say it’s risky. But these players have the fitness and ability to get the ball back if they lose it (hopefully not in dangerous positions). You want them to attack and give the opposition problems.

Now is a great chance for Roy Hodgson to give English football the identity we’ve lacked.

Tell the world: this is how we play – attack!

Do we want to go to a major tournament, get a couple of nil-all draws, a one-nil and then we might scrape through the group before we go out on penalties in the last 16 or quarter finals? There’s no future for England in this approach.

I was watching the England vs Ecuador friendly in an airport lounge, a bit back from the screen. In the first-half Barkley went on a run and I thought, ‘Bloody hell, is that Rooney?’

Barkley made me think of Wayne at Euro 2004. I had to take a second look because I thought it was Wayne. Barkley has no fear, which is backed by some of his statistics at Everton last season…

  • Interestingly, Barkley wasn’t credited with one assist although he did chip in with a decent return of six Premier League goals – three of which were from outside the area.
  • However his fondness for shooting from range – 53 of his 78 shots (68%) were from outside the box – meant he was at times wasteful in front of goal, getting less than a quarter of his efforts on target and needing an average of 13 attempts to find the net.
  • By comparison, Raheem Sterling took just over a third (36%) of his 45 PL shots from outside the box and ended up scoring nine: an impressive average conversion rate of five shots per goal scored.

Look at what Joachim Loew’s young and gifted German side achieved in South Africa four years ago. They destroyed England 4-1 – the average age of that German team was just 25.

Hodgson has little to lose by going for the jugular in Rio. Will we be satisfied if England scrape through to the quarter-finals playing negative football?

Let’s not do that and instead take responsibility for what happens if we go for it.

Let these England players off the leash.

If Welbeck is injured, I’d play Adam Lallana on the left with Sterling moving inside.

What do you think?