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Like it or not, Wayne Rooney has a major part to play at Euro 2016

Rooney AustraliaAs the all-time leading goal scorer for your country you would probably expect slightly more appreciation from the public, however the European Championships could be what it takes to put those doubters to bed for Wayne Rooney.

After the success of Euro 2004 in Portugal where a young Wayne Rooney announced his name on the international stage, plenty would’ve expected the forward to go from strength to strength in an England shirt.

Despite his goal scoring accolades it’s been the major tournaments which have cast doubt over the Manchester United man’s quality; the outburst with Ronaldo in 2006, the criticism of supporters to a TV camera in 2010 along with inadequate performances in 2012 & 2014, is Euro 2016 the stage where he rolls back the years and silences his critics?

He’ll likely be used in a different role to previous tournaments although the goal and ambition remains, win a major trophy for his country. Twelve years ago, he was young, fresh, energetic and lively now he leads his side to a major tournament as the figurehead of this current crop of English talent.

Despite his shortcomings in major tournaments for his country, his undoubted quality remains which is why he has to be in the starting eleven on Saturday evening against Russia. There has been plenty of comment, as to whether he should be in the side although as captain he is a key component to Roy Hodgson’s plans.

Just like Brazil in 2014, all eyes will be on Rooney, last time round it was questions as to whether he could break his goal duck in a World Cup, this time it will be whether he can make a real impact for England as well as being the leader the side needs – adding more pressure on his shoulders.

Where do you start him? Out wide in a 4-3-3, behind the front two or leading the line with someone else. We’ve seen this term that the two best strikers are Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, wouldn’t the England skipper flourish feeding the likes of those two in front of him?

We saw in the cup final, for large spells Rooney was the best player on the pitch, he had the intelligence to find space and make use of it, has he done it enough? No, although I feel with two strikers that want to score goals, he will relish getting on the ball and picking passes for the pair.

Much has been made about the inexperience of this England squad going to France with the likes of Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, John Stones in their young twenties and let’s not forget young Marcus Rashford at the tender age of 18 so it will be up to the likes of Rooney, Joe Hart, Gary Cahill to lead by example during the tournament.

It’s one thing captaining Manchester United, he’ll be used to his club team-mates how they respond to his demands however captaining your national side in a major tournament will be another test for Rooney, of course he’s been one of the main men in the set up for some time although he had the likes of John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard as well, it certainly time for him to step up.

Maybe the captaincy at a major tournament is what’s needed to revitalise Rooney’s international career. Despite all his goals, there is negativity surrounding his major tournament form. He has the opportunity to put that right, starting with Russia in Marseille on Saturday evening.

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