FOOTBALL: Rooney reluctant in new role

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The Independent Online
WAYNE ROONEY has placed Sven Goran Eriksson's tactical tinkering for the non-event against the Netherlands at Aston Villa under even sharper scrutiny with his admission that his role wide on the left of England's attack for the 0-0 draw is not one in which he would operate by choice.

Eriksson's 4-3-3 system, a formation seemingly hatched because of the Swedish coach's reluctance to omit either Frank Lampard, David Beckham or Steven Gerrard from central midfield areas, necessitated Rooney moving away from his preferred central striking role, which he filled with such devastating effect in Portugal during Euro 2004.

Rooney is regarded by the Dutch national coach Marco van Basten as one of the "biggest forwards in world football," but he was rendered largely impotent out wide. When pressed on his new international role, after significant hesitation Rooney could only offer: "It was OK. If I was given the choice I would prefer to play up front. I did well in Euro 2004 in that position, but obviously it's good to try different things in friendlies. I've played there most of the season for United so it was nothing new for me and I have scored goals from that position too. Obviously, it's good to change it around in friendlies in case we need it in a tournament, so it was OK."

The Manchester United forward, who has operated in a similar role for Sir Alex Ferguson and has scored 12 goals this season, his best Premiership total, offered the diplomatic rider that he remains proud to play for his country wherever picked, but seems at odds with his colleagues Beckham and Lampard, who believed the new look formation worked well enough.

Beckham believes it enabled him to play with two of the best young midfielders in Europe and replicate his new role at Real Madrid. However, he could well find himself back in a wider role on the right for the qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan at the end of next month, because of the lack of impact that Shaun Wright-Phillips made on his full debut.

Lampard was more enthusiastic about the new look and would like it to continue, saying: "I enjoyed it. I thought it worked pretty well. I'm used to it. I play there every week, that role on the left, and you enjoy playing with players like Steven and Becks in there. They are top players and I think we linked pretty well together."

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