Just days after Roy Hodgson described the nation’s ‘obsession’ with the Manchester United striker as ‘sad’, Charlton and Lineker weighed in on the endless debate.
Rooney, 28, has failed to score at two FIFA World Cups and is under pressure to perform in Brazil, where England face Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica in Group D.
Charlton, England’s all-time leading goalscorer with 49, said Rooney was the only ‘class’ player in Hodgson’s squad.
“Wayne Rooney is the only one that comes to mind when you think of where are our class players are coming from,” he said.
“Rooney will have to play. He”s just got that something extra. He will thrive, I think, on a successful performance in the World Cup.
“I think that a lot of the others are young, and they have an opportunity and they have something to prove, but it’s going to be difficult.
“In every position there seems to be a little bit of doubt in my mind, apart from Wayne Rooney and even Wayne would want to play in certain positions, but it’s up to the manager.”
Charlton believes Rooney (38 goals) is capable of beating his goalscoring record.
Meanwhile, Lineker, who struck 48 times for England, said Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge should be Hodgson’s number one option up front.
“One thing should be pretty permanent – and that’s that Sturridge plays up front, in the middle. He gives us different options,” Lineker said.
“He gives us a threat behind the opposition defence, which I think is really important and that’s something Wayne Rooney doesn’t do so frequently.
“Rooney’s very good at coming off of course, creating space, turning, hitting shots and bringing other people into the game, working hard, but in terms of a threat behind the opposition’s defence, that’s Sturridge’s territory.
“That makes the opposition slightly nervous, so they edge a little further back which creates more space between the defence and midfield for others to exploit. If we can do that, it makes teams think.
“Whereas, if you’ve got a central attacking player who doesn’t go that way, the opposition defence can squeeze up and then you’ve got less space to actually perform in.
“So the question then, of course, is ‘Right. We’ve got Sturridge up front – but who do we play, which system do we use and where do you play Rooney?'”
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