Jan Molby

Rooney ready for midfield role

Jan Molby

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Now Frank Lampard has joined Steven Gerrard in missing England's World Cup qualifier against San Marino on Friday, I think Roy Hodgson could do a lot worse than using Wayne Rooney as a midfielder at Wembley.

It has been mooted as a solution as Rooney has been asked to perform the role for Manchester United of late, and I think we are going to see him play deeper as he gets older.

Certainly for country and for club it is a good short-term fix at least. At United, Robin van Persie is the number one up front and United need to fit Shinji Kagawa in too after spending that money on him, so by necessity Rooney needs to play elsewhere.

Though United have Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Anderson and Tom Cleverley, midfield is the weakest part of their team, so it would be fairly easily for Wayne to slot into that position.

It might not be a long-term proposition just yet, but look at England: there aren't many internationals left in Gerrard and Lampard. When you play international football, against the best teams in the world, you need top-class midfield players and there could come a time when Rooney is the best option in that position.

I don't think he has a problem in midfield. There will be certain things that central midfield players do that he will have to learn, but generally I think he can play there easily. The fact that he has so much energy alone means he is suited to the role and I think he is so talented that really he could play anywhere. In terms of tackling and passing, he has all the technical tools.

He has always been used to playing a free role where you can go where you want. But in midfield you have to think of the balance of the team, which is very important. I think that is probably the main aspect that he needs to learn. More than half of your game in central midfield is thinking about the team. Where do I need to be for the team to benefit?

He already has a picture of the game in his head, but it is a different picture. He can view the game as a forward, see spaces where he wants to go and areas he wants to influence, but it is different as a midfielder.

Midfield players at the biggest clubs in the world have that match understanding but that is the only thing he needs to add to his game to be a success in that position.

One concern is that he hasn't played centre midfield in a really big game for United. He did it a couple of times last season in the Champions League and has done so a couple of times since, but I will be interested to see if Ferguson uses him in that role against big teams, when any mistake, when you are caught out of position, can cost you. I'd like to see him try that.

To be brutally honest though, if you take the opposition into consideration I think he could be in goal. If he does play in central midfield against San Marino then he will be heavily involved as he will dominate everything in the middle of the park. But you can't get carried away if he does - try playing against the Italians, that would be an entirely different game.

San Marino might be one of the worst teams in the world but this is a horrible match for Roy Hodgson. Anything less than 6-0 and people are going to criticise him. The best the visitors can hope for is probably a shot on target.

I think countries of the quality of San Marino should play pre-qualifiers against the other traditional minnows. Fixtures like this one don't benefit anyone and I don't think San Marino will learn anything from another heavy defeat. They got beaten 8-0 by Finland a couple of years ago, what did they learn from that?

At least if they play pre-qualifiers they get some experience of winning and scoring goals. They have no idea what it takes to win a game at present. The old cliche is that there are no games in international football. Well, this is certainly one.

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