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World Cup 2014

Football: Rooney should be left alone, says Welbeck

Published on Jun 17, 2014 7:00 AM
England's Wayne Rooney wipes sweat during the 2014 World Cup Group D soccer match between England and Italy at the Amazonia arena in Manaus on June 14, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - England forward Danny Welbeck said on Monday that his club and international team-mate Wayne Rooney was perfectly capable of operating on the left flank at the World Cup.

Rooney started on the left in England’s opening 2-1 loss to Group D rivals Italy in Manaus on Saturday, but despite setting up a goal for Daniel Sturridge, his performance attracted criticism.

Pundits including former England players Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes have called for Rooney to be restored to his preferred central role, but Welbeck believes that his Manchester United team-mate can be just as effective in a wide position.

“I think first and foremost, Wayne Rooney is a class player wherever he’s playing and can make a massive impact,” Welbeck told a press conference at England’s training base beside Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro.

“All the forward players at England have the flexibility to move in and around and interchange positions.

“Obviously Wayne was on the left in the first game, but he could be in a different position in a different game.

“Wazza’s the top scorer for England currently playing and has got 93 caps. When he’s on the pitch, he can make a difference.”

While Welbeck admits that Rooney would prefer to play at number 10, which is where Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling lined up against Italy, he says that he has enough experience to put the team’s needs before his own.

“It could be quite frustrating for anyone, playing out of position, but that’s football and you’ve just got to deal with it,” added Welbeck, whose side face Uruguay in Sao Paulo on Thursday.

“I know Wayne’s experienced. He can handle pretty much any situation. He’s been through a lot in his career.

“You say he’s playing out of position, but he’s played there plenty of times for Manchester United before, not just in the Premier League, but in Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals, final.

“He’s played there before and can play it well.” Asked if he understood calls for Rooney to be dropped, Welbeck replied: “That’s all down to the manager. Everyone knows the qualities Wayne Rooney possesses.

“It’s not really for me to comment on, to say who plays and who doesn’t.”