Wayne Rooney is set to be assigned to a position on the left flank in England’s friendly with Ecuador in Miami on Wednesday, as coach Roy Hodgson continues to try and solve the conundrum of how to get the best out of the Manchester United star ahead of the World Cup.
Hodgson was expected to make a full 11 changes from the team that beat Peru 3-0 in their Wembley sendoff last week. However, following a performance form Rooney in which he lacked sharpness and again struggled to fit into a 4-2-3-1 system with Daniel Sturridge as the main striker, he will be given another start. A player who has always needed a run of matches to be at his best will now, according to widespread reports, be deployed in a role which he has previously admitted is far from his favorite. But Hodgson, who has previously insisted that he would not be afraid to drop England’s top scorer in qualifying, does not see an issue with playing Rooney in any of the forward positions.
“Wayne can play in several positions and he will play in the position which we think will suit the team and which he is capable of playing,” he said on Tuesday, according to the Football Association’s website.
“I think Wayne is a very useful player in the sense you don’t have to pin him down and say this is his only position he can play. We have seen him play center forward, play behind the center forward and we have seen him play wide. So if he has done all of those things at the very top level for Manchester United there is no reasons I can’t use him in those positions as well.”
Rooney is not the only player who will be asked to play in an unaccustomed position, with Manchester City midfielder James Milner set to start at right-back. Having not selected an orthodox back-up right-back and with first-choice Glen Johnson failing to impress against Ecuador, Milner has an outside chance of staking a claim to begin there when England kick off their World Cup campaign against Italy in 10 days’ time.
It will also be an important outing for Jack Wilshere, if, as expected, he gets a start alongside captain for the night Frank Lampard. The Arsenal midfielder has not started a match since fracturing a bone in his left foot in England’s friendly with Denmark three months ago. Elsewhere, exciting Everton youngster Ross Barkley is set to start behind new Liverpool signing Rickie Lambert, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right of midfield and an all-Manchester-United center-back pairing of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. Luke Shaw is likely to start at left-back with Ben Foster in goal.
Ecuador also come into the match with much to work on after a 3-1 loss to Mexico on Saturday. It was a contest marred by a horrific injury to Mexico’s Luis Montes in a challenge with Segunda Castillo. Ecuador face an anxious wait to see if their midfielder will make the World Cup after also suffering an injury in the collision. Despite being expected to miss three weeks, he was named in coach Reinaldo Rueda’s final 23-man squad earlier this week.
While having some dangerous attacking weapons in the shape of former Manchester City striker Felipe Caicedo, Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia, fellow winger Jefferson Montero and Mexico-based forward Enner Valencia, Ecuador’s defense has been their weak link.
Where to watch: The international friendly will kick off from Sun Life stadium in Miami at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sports, with a live stream available on beIN Sports Play.