Stelling on forward decision Manchester United have to take and Wayne Rooney's England exploits

Carlsberg TVC Launch Peter Schmeichel

The Soccer Saturday host tells HITC Sport that the Red Devils have to use their skipper as a central forward in 2015/16.


Wayne Rooney remains England’s most enigmatic talent – leader of club and country and the man widely regarded as the finest this country has produced in a generation.

When he burst onto the scene with that spectacular strike for Everton against Arsenal, leaving David Seaman on his backside and bemused as to what had just happened, the world appeared to be at the burly forward’s feet.

A big-money move to Manchester United followed, the goals continued to flow, while a positive impression was left on a major international tournament at Euro 2004.

There have been plenty of highs since then, but there have been as many lows and a feeling that a man tipped for the very top may never scale the heights expected of him as a precocious teenager.

Time remains on his side – he is, despite being around for what feels like forever, still only 29 years of age and should be at his peak.

The time has come for him to prove that – again – with the general consensus being that he will be shifted back to his favoured central striking role by United this season following a year of experimentation under Louis van Gaal which saw him spend long periods in deep-lying, midfield posts.

With Robin van Persie gone, Radamel Falcao passed on, question marks still surrounding Javier Hernandez’s future and no recognised goal-getting reinforcements brought in as yet, the Red Devils have little choice but to build a potential Premier League title challenge around their skipper.

Jeff Stelling is among those who believe that decision has to be taken, with there no longer a need – with the likes of Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger added to the ranks – for a fearsome forward to be shifted from a role where he can cause the most damage.

Speaking at the filming of the new TV advert from Carlsberg that transforms a simple five-a-side kickabout into probably the best kickabout in the world, Stelling told HITC Sport during a phone interview: “I feel for him a bit in the sense that his best position is still in the front line as a striker. His position has been chopped and changed, he’s been used as a jack of all trades – I’ve seen him used almost as a full-back by United in a Champions League game.

“We want to see the Wayne Rooney we saw as a 16-year-old. You can’t turn the clock back in that sense, though. He’s not the same player. He has improved in a lot of ways, but I think his best role is when he is exploding towards goal.

“He was used a lot last season in that quarterback role, spraying balls around, but for me, that’s not his best position. I would like to see him spearheading United’s attack and spearheading England’s charge towards a decent campaign at the Euros. He should be in his prime at the moment, so there is no reason why he can’t.”

Carlsberg TVC Launch Peter Schmeichel

England will be looking to Rooney to inspire them on the road to France 2016, with a man who has 105 caps to his name just one goal short of Bobby Charlton’s all-time scoring record.

Stelling expects history to be re-written on that score, but is not convinced that the Three Lions have a truly world-class performer on their books and is still looking for Rooney to make his mark on the grandest of stages and silence his critics once and for all.

He added: “I don’t think he’s underappreciated, I just think he needs to perform at a very high level more often.

“The record is a nonsense really because you have to look at the sides England play in their qualifying groups. There are a lot more games, and a lot more games where you would expect him to score goals. He has done well for England without being absolutely brilliant.

“If you picked a team of the world’s best international players, would I put Rooney in it? Of course I wouldn’t. There wouldn’t be any other England players in that team either. I think we want to see the best of him at a major tournament.”

Whatever your opinion of Rooney, there is no getting away from the fact that this is shaping up to be quite a season for him – as he captains United and England down a path both hope will have a silver(ware) lining.

Records will tumble at some stage – with there only 19 goals separating him from Charlton’s goalscoring record at Old Trafford – and you get the sense that regular minutes in the position where he feels most at home will help to bring the best out of man who is still capable of producing moments of jaw-dropping, game-altering brilliance when the mood takes him.

As the Official Beer of the Premier League, Carlsberg unveiled its latest “If Carlsberg Did…” TV advert during the traditional season curtain raiser between FA Cup winners Arsenal FC and Premier League champions Chelsea FC. Starring Jeff Stelling and Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel, the new TV advert from the brand transforms a simple five-a-side kickabout into probably the best kickabout in the world. Watch the advert by clicking here.

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