Steven Gerrard defends Rooney against Paul Scholes
England captain Steven Gerrard on Thursday dismissed Paul Scholes’s claim that his former Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney may already be past his best.
Speaking earlier this week, Scholes said that Rooney, alongside whom he played for eight seasons at Old Trafford, may be “worn out” because he has been playing professionally since the age of 16.
But ahead of England’s friendly against Peru at Wembley Stadium on Friday, Gerrard argued that Rooney’s performances over the 2013-14 campaign proved that the 28-year-old can be one of the stars of the forthcoming World Cup.
“For me, I think Paul Scholes is wrong,” Gerrard told a media briefing at the England team hotel in Watford, 20 miles (32 kilometres) north of London.
“For me he’s been Manchester United’s best player throughout (the season), in the league and in Europe. I think Wayne Rooney’s been in terrific form.
“I can only judge him and have my opinion on him on what I’ve seen. His performances in the Manchester United team have been really positive.
“He’s worked hard this week. He decided to do his own week’s training and he seems in an awfully better frame of mind going into this tournament than when he had injuries on his mind last time (2010).
“So for me, I’m excited about where Wayne Rooney’s at.”
Wayne Rooney training with fitness coach Tony Strudwick during a training session at the St George's Park training complex near Burton-upon-Trent, central England, May 27, 2014 ahead of England's friendly against Peru. Reuters/Phil Noble
Rooney is expected to start up front alongside Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge for the game against Peru, which will be England’s last friendly game in front of their own fans before the World Cup.
Hodgson: ‘Not an experimental team’
England manager, Roy Hodgson speaking to reporters ahead of their friendly against Peru. AFP Photo/Carl Court
Inopportune injuries have been a recurring theme of England’s most recent pre-World Cup training camps, but despite the squad’s clean bill of health, Gerrard warned against getting carried away.
“I think it’s a bit early to come out with any ludicrous shouts about how good this team and this squad is,” said the Liverpool midfielder.
“We’ll be judged on the games in the World Cup. But I’ll agree with the manager that training was very positive, very sharp and intense.
“If we can take that into the games, it’ll certainly give us a better chance of being successful.”
England fly to Miami after Friday’s game, where they will play further friendlies against Ecuador and Honduras before tackling Italy in their opening World Cup group match in Manaus on June 14.
Hodgson suggested that he would select a strong line-up to face Pablo Bengoechea’s Peru, who failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Asked if his team selection would provide any clues as to the side likely to line up against Italy, he replied: “I’m looking at the three matches, I suppose.
“I’m affected by the fact that this is our last game in England and it’s a massive crowd and a huge responsibility. So it certainly won’t be an experimental team.
“If anything, I’ll be veering more towards the players that have been doing the job for us up to now because I’ve got the two matches in Miami to make more experimentation.”
Hodgson also revealed that he hoped to take standby players John Stones and Jon Flanagan to Miami, subject to the approval of their respective club managers.
Everton centre-back Stones, 20, and 21-year-old Liverpool full-back Flanagan were both placed on standby in case any of the defenders in Hodgson’s 23-man World Cup squad succumbed to injury.