Speculation has circled Rooney throughout the Three Lions' preparation, with several claiming that the Red Devils star should be compromised to accommodate Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge, who netted 21 goals for the Reds last term.
However, Ferdinand, who left United after 12 years earlier this summer, believes that his former teammate needs to be played as a "number nine".
Speaking to the BBC in a pre-World Cup edition of Match of the Day, Ferdinand said: "I think [Rooney is] and out-and-out number nine. His best season for Manchester United, when he got all the goals and all the adulation, was right up top playing as a number nine.
"He was commanding the attention of two centre-halves, you can get the ball into him, he's strong enough, he's cute enough, and I'd play Sturridge, just to the right of him. Not as a winger, but just to the right, and he does that with Luis Suarez at Liverpool.
"I think Wayne Rooney is a number nine. Get the ball into him where people can use his influence and we'll see the best of him."
The 35-year-old also thinks that Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling can come to the fore in Brazil as an "impact player" who can change games as a substitute.
"I'd let Sterling be the impact player," added Ferdinand. "Let him come on and explode around 65-70 minutes, and as long as we're in the game at that point, I think we can go on and win games.
"Those two players (Sterling and Ross Barkley) can be those who can come off the bench and people don't know about them. They can take the game by the scruff of the neck."
England meet Italy in their first group game on Saturday in Manaus.