No player at Manchester United can take much credit after last season’s performances, bar David de Gea. It was a disaster. The keeper being player of the year says a lot. Now, after an indifferent season, the England management team has to get the best from Wayne Rooney for the World Cup.
He’s got a brilliant scoring record for his country with 38 goals in 89 internationals, but he’s played in eight World Cup games without a goal. You expect more of him. If Wayne is going to be one of the best footballers in the world, this World Cup is where he has to produce.
Euro 2004 was a low
Maybe Wayne has felt the pressure of playing for England in the last two World Cups when he’s not scored. I know how difficult it can be. I didn’t perform for England the way I’d have liked, especially at big tournaments. France ’98 was okay. It was a part of my career that was decent without being brilliant.
Euro 2004 was a low, however. I had a really bad tournament, for one reason or another, playing on the left-hand side. Playing out wide was not the issue – it is easy to make that excuse. Some of my best games for Manchester United were on the left, especially when Ryan was injured.
The truth is, I felt so much more comfortable playing in the Manchester United team than I did in the England team. Maybe the players weren’t as good then for England as I was used to at Old Trafford.
I was never left out of the England team, even though I wasn’t playing well enough at that point to be in the side. You need to be left out of the team to ‘galvanise’ your thoughts. Sven never dropped me and it might have just been the kick up the backside that was needed.
However, Wayne and myself are very different characters. He could take it badly getting dropped as he wants to play every game, whereas I’d say to myself, ‘Come on, lad – you need to get yourself going’.
Wayne is old school
The standout thing about Wayne is he always wants to be playing football. He’s almost like a schoolkid. You can’t stop him from training, in a day and age when many players don’t really want to train properly and only train if they have to. It’s quite easy to get yourself out of training with ‘fitness’ problems. Wayne is different. He’s old school. He loves being a footballer.
His best attributes are his energy, desire, a will to win which is unbelievable – but, above all, his goals. Wayne wants all the responsibility to score. He’ll try to play left back, right back. Sometimes he does that too much instead of saving himself and his energy for what his teams need – the ball in the net. He needs to use his energy more effectively now as he’s a player who likes to be up front on his own and I don’t think he’s great with partnerships.
Wayne was in the Everton team at 16 years of age, in 2003. Since then he’s played at Euro 2004, two World Cups, Premier League, and Champions League every year at United. There’s a chance he’s worn out. Wayne’s peak may have been a lot younger than what we’d expect of footballers traditionally. Age 28 or 29 has been the normal ‘peak’. With Wayne, it could have been when he scored 27 league goals in 2011/2012 when he was 26.
Wayne has all the ability to take over my position
It’ll be interesting next season with Louis van Gaal at Manchester United and how he decides to play Wayne. It looks like it might come to a straight choice between Wayne and Robin van Persie (who looks to be coming into form at the right time after that stunning goal the other night against Ecuador).
Wayne might be a player who’d retire come 31 or 32, given the amount of football he’s played. Ryan Giggs has been on the go for ages, but he adjusted his position. Can Wayne do the same? I don’t think Wayne will be able to play centre forward until he’s 34 or 35. But he could play centre midfield, possibly, into his mid-thirties.
He’s got all the ability to take over my old position at Manchester United. He has played some games there, but has never gone on an uninterrupted run. Whether he has the discipline to do it, right now I’m not sure.
I’m not saying Wayne needs to be dropped but if form doesn’t get up to scratch in the warm-ups, or in the first game of the World Cup, it’ll be interesting to see if the England management team has the balls to make that decision. We have quality forwards in the squad this time. That should give Wayne the competition he needs to spur him on a little more.
To get the very best from Wayne in Rio, the manager needs to tell him: ‘Don’t bother running back. Stay up top. Stay centre forward. Score goals. That’s your job in my team.’
Woodward has to prove he has what it takes
I’ve not spoken to Edward Woodward. I came back for Ryan Giggs for the last few games to try to help out but I’m not waiting for a phonecall and don’t expect to be at Old Trafford next season. Louis van Gaal (above) has the credentials.
He’s been at the biggest clubs in the world but he has a major job on his hands at Man United. It’s a massive task and there’s a big gap to fill to catch Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool next season. United are a long way behind. If van Gaal gets them to the Champions League, it’ll be a start.
The players did not perform last season. The manager was a little negative with the teams he put out but I wasn’t around the place in training until Ryan asked me back, so I can’t judge properly. David Moyes took a lot of stick, but I believe he’s a top manager. I’d question if 10 months was enough time.
Edward Woodward has an awful lot to prove this time that he’s good enough at his job. He has to bring the players in that the new manager wants. It’s obvious that last year he didn’t manage to do that. If he doesn’t, we are not going to get anywhere near the top.
The first player I’d bring in is Toni Kroos. He’s a top-class central midfield player but United need five or six to get anywhere near the top of the Premier League again.
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