Belfast Telegraph

Wayne Rooney must be prepared to make sacrifices

By Sam Wallace

There was a time when Manchester United were so blessed with attacking players, in those three seasons starting in 2006 when they wrestled the title back from Chelsea, that Wayne Rooney accepted the move out to the left side as part of playing in a successful team.

Nevertheless, there was no other way of dressing it up: it was a demotion for a man who is judged by the goals he has scored.

In those days he played in a team that included Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and, latterly, Dimitar Berbatov.

Rooney's threat down the left side gave the opposition cause to think twice and his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson was strong enough then that Rooney was prepared to take one for the team.

"I want to play in the position where I feel I'm best," Rooney said in June 2009.

"A lot of people think I'm best as a centre-forward. To play week in week out for Manchester United is a privilege and it's something I'm very lucky to be doing, but I don't think I can express myself as much playing on the wing."

In those days, Rooney having to make the same sacrifices for England was unthinkable.

He was the main man; the team's attacking focal point and when he was fit – and not suspended – he played.

However, when he was handed a bib in training in Miami yesterday, it was with the instruction that he should take up a position on the left side.

Whether he plays there today against Ecuador is another matter, but it is enough to know that Roy Hodgson is entertaining lots of ideas for his famous No 10.

Asked whether Rooney was an "exceptional player", Hodgson embarked upon one of his trademark question-deconstruction responses. Give him his due, you would never see Fabio Capello attacking a question so diligently.

"You're saying he [Rooney] is an exceptional player. I have picked him because he is a very good player and I think it's wrong of you to now suggest you use words about him and you either want me to refute them or agree with them.

"I don't think you should put me in that position. I am not here to talk about Wayne Rooney."

If this is the end of Rooney's time as an automatic first choice for England, then Hodgson is not interested in his role in history. He just wants to pick his team.

Perhaps the left side solution will be temporary. Or perhaps it will be Rooney's saviour.

Meanwhile, Frank Lampard as good as signalled that his time as an international is coming to a close just as the curtain has fallen at Chelsea.

He will win his 104th cap for England tonight, as captain, although the end is near

He said: "I'm very proud and very happy to play for England, so I won't say it [he will quit after the summer]. If we go and win it, I'll probably hang my boots up! I love playing. I'm just appreciating and enjoying every minute."

  • Wales manager Chris Coleman knows his team cannot afford to become reliant on Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.

Coleman is without his two star players for tonight's friendly against Holland in Amsterdam.

Bale withdrew with a leg injury while Ramsey has been rested after an injury-hit campaign.

Coleman said: "They'd be a loss to any team in the world because they are top-quality players and you always want them. We may not have them for one or two qualifiers and we have to adapt."

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