Former Manchester United striker Andy Cole is backing Wayne Rooney to silence his critics and recover from his current slump in form.
Rooney has enjoyed a miserable few weeks for club and country that culminated with him being dropped for England’s 0-0 draw with Slovenia on Tuesday.
The Manchester United captain was booed by some England supporters during the 2-0 win over Malta at Wembley last Saturday, prompting some to question whether he should continue at international level, but Cole feels Rooney still has plenty to offer his country.
Speaking at the launch of Marathonbet’s Manchester United casino, Cole said: “Are we saying now that he has had a downturn in form at Manchester United as well as England that he can no longer play the game?
“You’ve got to give the guy an opportunity. He is not prepared to retire at international level. Why should he if he can still do a job?
“He will get his form back for Manchester United and no doubts he will get himself back in the team.”
Former England captain Alan Shearer is among those who have publicly called on Rooney to call time on his international career but Cole believes that is extremely disrespectful to the country’s all-time leading goal scorer.
When asked about the criticism Rooney has faced, Cole said: “It has got to hurt because we are all human. You can sit and say ‘oh I am not really bothered about it’ but in the cold light of day, when you are at home, of course you are going to think about that.
“You are going to think about the individuals who said certain things. You have ex-players saying ‘oh he should retire or he should do this…’ but when they were in that position no one told them that they should go.
“They went when they wanted to go so they should not be telling someone of his calibre it is time to go or questioning his place in the England squad.”
Even though Rooney is only 30 years old, some have argued that the huge amount of games he has played in his career means he is likely to decline sooner than other players.
He made his professional debut for Everton in 2002 at the age of 16. His international debut came in February 2003 against Australia when he was just 17 and he remains England’s youngest ever goal scorer.
Cole, however, disagrees with that line of thinking and thinks Rooney should take inspiration from United team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is still an impact player at the age of 35.
When asked if he thinks Rooney will bounce back from his current dip in form, Cole said: “At 30? Come on. He is still a young man.
“If you look at Zlatan – and I have loved watching him throughout his career – he is 35. I know they are two totally different specimens and they have lived their lives in two totally different ways but if you look at him at 35, why can’t Wayne Rooney still be playing for Manchester United at 35?”