It’s extremely difficult to steer clear of the hyperbole that accompanies Wayne Rooney. After all, the current plight of the Manchester United man is a fascinating one and it certainly wouldn’t feel quite right if the English media didn’t impinge their hopes onto one man in the build-up to a big game. Unfortunately for Rooney, he’s just their latest obsession.
When it comes to the forward, the long-term narrative is that of a player who is indisputably talented, but has never quite reached the stratospheric heights that were expected of him when he dazzled as a teenager. A youngster lauded by many as one of the only world-class talents England have produced over the last decade, but now a man who has never delivered for the Three Lions on the biggest international stage.
Looking at things a little more short-term, he was shunted out to an unfamiliar role on the flank to accommodate a vibrant young talent in England’s World Cup opener against Italy. Rooney made one key contribution during the game, but aside from that, struggled. He left his left-back hopelessly exposed, failed to make any sustained impression in dangerous areas and missed a golden chance to restore parity in the game.
Rooney has always been a player that has split opinions, so naturally, questions about his role in the Three Lions set-up are have been longstanding and plentiful. But never in his 11-year international career has the man from Merseyside been under quite as much scrutiny.
It’s a topic that conjures debate and subsequent sensationalism, and that’s to be expected when it comes to a figure as high profile as Rooney. But there would be nothing sensationalised in saying England’s second match of 2014 World Cup will be the most important 90 minutes of the 28-year-old’s international career.
After the clamor that accompanied Rooney’s shift to the left-hand side for the Three Lions’ narrow defeat to Italy, Roy Hodgson is set to afford England’s number 10 the no. 10 role, moving the scintillating Raheem Sterling out of the position in which he was so impressive against the Azzurri.
It’s the position Rooney prefers and in the eyes of many, the position he performs best in. But perhaps most significantly against Uruguay, it’ll be the critical position on the pitch.
There’s no Andrea Pirlo to shackle and no Daniele De Rossi to provide protection to the back-four. Instead Rooney will be up against a very rigid and pretty average four-man Uruguay midfield. For a no.10, it’s an ideal scenario and one Rooney must take advantage of.