Wayne Rooney Must Start Versus Ukraine

Having picked up 4 points from their opening two games at Euro 2012 without Wayne Rooney, there are several England fans suggesting that the Manchester United striker should not be included in their final group game versus Ukraine on Tuesday.

Don’t change a winning side” and “England should start with Carroll & Welbeck on tues they should not be dropped to accommodate Rooney” are just some of the many radio call-ins and Tweets I have heard and read since England’s 3-2 victory over Sweden. A complete over reaction to a narrow victory over one of the weakest teams in the tournament.

Yes, Andy Carroll opened the scoring when he connected with Steven Gerrard’s delicious cross from deep. And Danny Welbeck’s neat flick secured the 3 points for England. But leaving Wayne Rooney out of the England side would be the equivalent of Barcelona leaving out Lionel Messi in a Champions League final. At least one since 2006.

Wayne Rooney is England’s best player. And, although his recent goalscoring record for his country had been poor under Fabio Capello, there’s a new man in charge and a seemingly new mentality. England have already scored more goals (4) in their opening two games of this tournament than they did in their disastrous 2010 World Cup (3) under Mr Capello. Opposition included USA, Algeria and Slovenia in that tournament.

But for a broken metatarsal against Portugal in the quarter-final of Euro 2004, I still believe Wayne Rooney would have lead his country to glory that summer. Really, I do. 4 goals in little more than 3 European Championship games is Rooney’s record. And Ukraine don’t have the best of defences in this tournament.

Wayne Rooney offers something that neither Andy Carroll or Danny Welbeck have shown at club level, and certainly not international level. The former Everton wonderkid has match-winning ability. Both Carroll and Welbeck have relied on good service in their short careers to date. The Manchester United striker is happy to come deep to collect the ball and also creates opportunities for team mates.

Bringing Rooney into the team gives England a chance to improve their ball retention, something that has been lacking in their opening two games. He has played with Danny Welbeck at Manchester United this past season, which would make Andy Carroll the obvious player to drop from the squad that started against Sweden.

Ashley Young has also teamed up well with the England number 10 in the Premier League. Something to get Young off and running in this tournament would only serve as a benefit for Roy Hodgson’s side for the remainder of their tournament.

England’s best and most-gifted player, Wayne Rooney will start against Ukraine on Tuesday. And when he does, I am confident of an England victory. With odds of 5/4 I hope to be smiling all the way to the bank as England move onto the quarter-finals for only the second time this millennium,