Rooney plays on left wing against Ecuador
Worries about Manchester United striker’s fitness means Raheem Sterling won’t now start warm-up game
England’s Wayne Rooney training at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami ahead of the friendly international against Ecuador, in which the player will start on the left wing. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
Wayne Rooney will be asked to start England’s friendly against Ecuador in the left-wing position he is on record as disliking, after Roy Hodgson admitted he was concerned enough about the striker’s sharpness to change his mind about fielding an entirely new side in their penultimate warm-up match before the World Cup.
Hodgson had said after Friday’s win over Peru he intended to make 11 changes but Rooney’s ongoing fitness issues have persuaded the England manager to alter his plans, meaning Raheem Sterling no longer gets the chance to stake his claim for a starting place in Brazil.
Rooney will begin as the left-sided player in a 4-2-3-1 system and Hodgson set up his team during their training session at the Sun Life Stadium with Ross Barkley playing in the number 10 role.
Rickie Lambert, Liverpool’s new signing, will play as the principal striker and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be on the right of a midfield in which Jack Wilshere will start his first game, at any level, since March.
Frank Lampard will captain the team, with Steven Gerrard rested, and Rooney will not be the only player asked to play out of position, with James Milner dropping back from midfield into the right-back spot.
Rooney’s selection, however, is a clear admission on Hodgson’s part he is not satisfied with the physical condition of a player whose last three major tournaments have been undermined by fitness problems.
The manager had previously stated there was no problem and Rooney could be rested along with everyone else who started the Peru match.
“The thinking behind Wayne starting a second game is that he played only 60 minutes the other day,” Hodgson said. “He didn’t play many games before he joined us.”
“We think he’s recovering his match fitness and that starting a game will be to his advantage. We’ll see how long he plays and that will be based on how we think his fitness is progressing.”
Rooney has stated on several occasions he is not happy playing on the wing but Hodgson does not anticipate any problems.
“Wayne is one of 23 players. I’m very happy to have him here. I don’t have to share the obsession that ‘he has to play here or he has to play that’.
“As far as I’m concerned, I look at the players at my disposal and decide what they need and what we need. Then I expect them to do it.
“Wayne can play in several positions and he’ll play in a position which we think will suit the team and which he is capable of playing.
“He can [play on the left], absolutely. I think Wayne’s a very useful player in the sense you don’t have to pin him down and say this is the only position he can play.
In changing his mind about Sterling, Hodgson said he was aware there would be a lot of people back in England who wanted the teenager to get his opportunity.
“If I concentrate totally on where the clamour is, I’d be changing my team every other moment because, with respect, the clamour does change.
“But you don’t have to have any doubts about how we feel about Raheem Sterling. We feel he’s an exceptional player and we’re hoping he’ll be a very useful cog in our wheel at this World Cup. Let’s just hope the clamour doesn’t reach proportions which will affect his game. – Guardian Service