Danny Welbeck has moved to defend teammate Wayne Rooney's performance in England’s 2-1 defeat to Italy, after the harsh criticism the Manchester United striker received in the aftermath.
Positioned out on the left wing, Rooney was largely ineffective during the side’s World Cup opener on Saturday, aside from providing the cross for Daniel Sturridge’s equaliser, and there have been calls for the 28-year-old to be dropped from the starting lineup after a string of poor performances for the national team.
However, Welbeck has rubbished such statements and believes that his United teammate remains an integral part of Roy Hodgson’s side ahead of their game against Uruguay on Thursday.
‘I think first and foremost Wayne Rooney is a class player and I think wherever he’s playing on the pitch he can have a massive impact,’ Welbeck said.
‘I think all the forward players with England have the flexibility to move around and interchange positions, and obviously Wayne was on the left for the first game but for the second or third it could be somewhere different.
‘He’s the top scorer for England in the squad, he’s got 93 caps and he’s very experienced. When he’s on that pitch he can really make a difference.’
Despite his widely recognised talent, Rooney’s failure to shine on the big stage has been well documented by this point and, now entering his third World Cup, most see this as a career-defining summer for the former Everton man.
With even ex-United colleague Paul Scholes labelling him past his peak, calls for Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley to be brought into lineup may seem a tad reactionary to some but, based on current form, both certainly warrant a place in the starting xi over Rooney.
Welbeck too has not escaped criticism and both players go into their second group game with a great deal to prove, in what’s surely a must-win matchup for the Three Lions.
Although expectations going into Brazil were largely subdued, failure to make it out of the group stage would certainly be viewed as a failure back home and Rooney’s wider reputation rests on demonstrating to the football world over the coming weeks that he can break through to fulfil his long-promised role as England’s talisman.