“If Jose says he is not going to play him in centre midfield and he is playing up front and scoring goals for Manchester United then it would be pointless me bringing him into England and playing him in centre midfield.”
This is a line from new England manager Sam Allardyce and gives the impression that the tenure of Wayne Rooney as a central midfielder is over before it truly began.
Having played all of Euro 2016 qualifiers as a striker, the England captain was switched to a midfield role during the finals in France, to accommodate pre-tournament flyer Harry Kane.
Roy Hodgson also had the challenge of fitting the likes of Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge into his attacking plans, with the latter another to be played out of his natural position when taking an advanced right-sided role in England’s last-16 defeat to Iceland.
Allardyce’s comment indicate that he is keen to pick players in positions where they are performing for their clubs, meaning it ultimately hinges on Jose Mourinho as to whether Rooney will remain in the Three Lions’ first team.
Earlier this month, the Special One declared of the 30-year-old that “maybe he is not a number nine anymore but he will never, with me, be a number six. He will never be 50 metres from the goal”.
Therefore, Rooney’s likely position at Old Trafford this term is as a support striker and creator in the number-10 role, most probably in behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Marcus Rashford.
Then the dilemma will fall on Allardyce as to whether he settles on an England formation that requires a number 10, and if Rooney is playing better than the likes of Dele Alli, Ross Barkley or Adam Lallana, his likely competition for the position.
By not playing Rooney in a deeper midfield role, Mourinho is effectively limiting the former Everton man’s chances of adding to his 115 England caps and national record of 53 goals.
Quite rightly, he would be doing what is considered best for Manchester United, who are 7/2 second favourites to win the Premier League in 2016/17.