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Why Wayne Rooney Shouldn't Start for England at the World Cup

05/06/2014 17:19 BST | Updated 05/08/2014 10:59 BST
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There's been a gathering storm around England's World Cup camp and it's almost exclusively building up around one man in particular - a certain 28-year-old Manchester United player.

Ever since Paul Scholes floated the idea that England might be better served without Wayne Rooney in the starting lineup, the idea's been seized upon. Is he fit enough? Is he past his peak? Should he even be in the squad?

The general consensus is that Rooney probably isn't 100% match sharp yet, but still could be by the start of the tournament. As for the United star being past his peak, well, it's hard to tell. As Scholes rightly pointed out, Rooney was in the Everton first team from the age of 16 and his unusually early start could mean that he's past his best earlier than most.

So, Rooney might be a little off-colour at this tournament. No bother. He's still comfortably England's best player, right?

Well, maybe not. England fans may well have to come to the conclusion sooner or later that Wayne Rooney is a choker. It sounds ridiculous to say, with his exceptional goalscoring record for his country, but it could just be true.

Rooney broke onto the international scene at Euro 2004, taking the tournament by storm with four goals in four games before getting injured early in the quarter final against Portugal, as England went out on penalties again. It was the perfect picture of a young footballer blossoming, just 18 years old and unburdened by expectation.

He was never the same on the big stage again.

When the 2006 World Cup rolled around, there were big hopes for England. Rooney, they said, could lead England to glory. He could be the best England striker since Lineker, maybe even better. Instead, he folded. He came into the tournament still recovering from injury and didn't score in any of the four games he was a part of, before getting himself sent off in the quarter final.

Euro 2008 sped past without England qualifying and then we reached the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Rooney was 24 and at the peak of his powers. He was, the talk went, a world class player to rival Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

He was also, as it turned out, utterly abysmal. Despite topping 30 goals for his club that season, he once again looked out of place on the biggest stage of all. Uncomfortable and unsettled, he famously vented his frustrations into a TV camera after a poor performance against Algeria.

His performance at Euro 2012 was little better, although he did score his first goal in an international tournament in eight years in a 1-0 win over Ukraine, but he still disappeared in the quarter final against Italy, when it mattered the most.

Excuses have always been made for Rooney under-performing and every time England go into a tournament he's suddenly expected to be the player who can drag the team to victory. The fact is, Roy Hodgson doesn't have a player like that at his disposal and if he did, it wouldn't be Rooney.

It could be time for him to take a back seat. The only football he's played since April is an hour against Peru and he could be better served coming on to change the game in the latter stages, providing backup to Daniel Sturridge, who's been Rooney's superior in most aspects this season.

Will it happen? It doesn't seem likely. Despite all of the ex-players publicly questioning Rooney's place in the side, Hodgson has backed the most experienced member of his attack. If he's in for his experience, he might even be a hindrance rather than a help. Rooney has international experience, it's true, but only of failure. When it comes to World Cups, his record reads: Played 8, Scored 0.

Players like Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley are in Rooney's position from 2004 - young and unjaded by previous defeats. It could be time to let them come through and see the United man take a supporting role, for once.

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