ENGLAND captain Steven Gerrard has hit out at Paul Scholes for suggesting that Wayne Rooney may be past his best.
In a frank blog, Scholes claimed his former Manchester United and England teammate had been in decline for the last two years.
“Wayne’s peak may have been a lot younger than we’d expect of footballers traditionally,”
“Age 28 or 29 has been the normal peak. With Wayne, it could have been when he scored 27 league goals in 2011-2012 when he was 26.”
Scholes’ comments have not gone down well with the England captain however, who launched a staunch defence of the striker on the eve of the Three Lions’ friendly against Peru.
“Paul Scholes is wrong,” Gerrard said.
“I think he’s been Manchester United’s best player at home and in Europe.
“He’s been in terrific form.
I can only judge from my opinion but from what I’ve seen from his performances in the United team, his form has been really positive.”
Scholes highlighted Rooney’s poor record at major tournaments as one of the reasons why he thinks the 28-year-old’s career might be on the wane.
Rooney failed to score in the eight appearances he made in South Africa and Germany.
In fairness to the striker he carried injuries into both tournaments, but this time he has been so determined to go to Brazil in full health that he took two fitness coaches with him to Portugal on his week off.
Gerrard thinks that kind of commitment should be saluted.
“He’s worked hard this week and he decided to do his own week of extra training,” Gerrard said.
“He seems in an awful better frame of mind going into this tournament than he’s had going into previous tournaments when he’s had injuries on his mind in the past. I’m excited about where Wayne Rooney is at.”
Roy Hodgson was equally dismissive of Scholes’ comments.
The England manager gave his full backing to the United striker, who may well take over from Gerrard as Hodgson’s skipper if the midfielder retires from international football after the World Cup.
“I believe in Wayne Rooney,”
Hodgson said. “He’s still a young man and of course I don’t think he’s past his best.
“I’ve selected him in a 23- man squad that I’m very proud of.
“The real opinions that are going to count are from the staff and the players.
“They are the ones we can control. We can’t control opinions from the outside but they are the opinions that matter, ours. Hopefully we will get our decisions right and have a good tournament.”
Having an in-form Daniel Sturridge in Brazil should, in theory, lighten the load on Rooney’s shoulders during the World Cup.
But other than that, the only other options available to the England manager are 32-year-old Rickie Lambert – likely to sign for Liverpool in a £4m deal from Southampton – and Danny Welbeck, who has had a poor season at Manchester United.
Scholes suggested Hodgson would not have the guts to drop Rooney if he failed to perform in Brazil, but the former Liverpool boss again disagreed with the 39-yearold’s point.
“I’d like to think that, having been a manager for a long time, I have the capacity to make the decisions that are necessary,” Hodgson said.
Gerrard knows all about Rooney, having played alongside the forward for the last ten years with England.
The Liverpool captain is also well aware of the talents of another talisman who will be trying to impress in Brazil.
Luis Suarez, who scored 31 goals for Liverpool last season, is a doubt for Uruguay’s game against England in Sao Paulo on June 19 after he had emergency knee surgery.
Gerrard insists he and his England team-mates will not be distracted by the issue of Suarez’s fitness in the build up to the Group D game.
“I don’t know whether he is going to be available,” the midfielder said.
“I think the only people that know whether he is going to be available is Luis himself and the physio and doctors in their team. For me, it is not very important.’’