Wayne Rooney still has a big role to play for both Manchester United and England and the sceptics who think otherwise are forgetting that, at 31 later this month, he is at his peak mentally, if not physically.
The game becomes so much easier to read at that age with all the experience of so many top-flight games. And I doubt whether either Jose Mourinho or Gareth Southgate would want to lose a player of Rooney’s experience right now.
Of course, there does come a point in every iconic player’s career when you have to make a judgement on whether their status justifies a place in the team or whether their fitness means they have to be dropped.
In 1998 I left Paul Gascoigne, a wonderful player when in his prime, out of England’s World Cup squad. But I don’t feel Wayne is at that stage. For one thing, I was making a decision over the length of a tournament rather than a couple of games. And Paul really wasn’t physically right and was carrying injuries. But just as Gareth has to cope with every press conference being focused on Wayne, so every time I selected an England team or squad it became a story about Gascoigne.
That is an integral part of being England manager. And to be honest, you would put yourself in an early grave if you worried too much about it or what other people are saying.
In the end you have to make the decision with your staff which you believe is honest and right for the team. You cannot listen to other voices. Put simply, you only have to decide what will work for this team or squad in the next game. That might mean Wayne starting at times or being on the bench. But that is the only question you need to ask yourself.
I still believe his best position is closer to the penalty area than where he played against Malta, when he was deeper in midfield. He can still play as No 9 or a No 10. But where I would like to see him is in a midfield three. Not in a deep role as the holding player but playing higher up, alongside Dele Alli or Adam Lallana.
Then they can alternate their runs: when one gets in the box, the other hangs back and vice versa. And rather than having a solitary No 10 behind the striker, you would have a No 8 and a No 10 alternating in the role: one has freedom to hit the box and the other stays on the edge of the D. Because wherever Wayne plays, you need to get him in and around that penalty area. It is almost akin to the role in which I played Teddy Sheringham. There, he can link the play but he is also high enough up to hit the box.
But Wayne is not in a situation which is where he needs to be discarded by club or country. He may have a problem starting for England next month against Scotland if he isn’t starting for Manchester United, though there are even Europa League games in which he will probably play. And situations change very quickly in football.
People are writing him off but my belief is that, even though he will probably be on the bench at Anfield on Monday night, eventually he will be playing well enough to get himself back in this United team and stay in the team. And at that point he will be back in the England team as well.
I said last month that I expected Joe Hart to bounce back from the disappointment of being left out by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and having to move to Torino. I was delighted to see that he did just that against Slovenia on Tuesday.
The save from Jasmin Kurtic’s header was outstanding and his presence when one-on-one with the strikers was also impressive. This is a man who responds well to setbacks and shows character. And, incidentally, England’s keeper looked as good with his feet as any Manchester City goalie I’ve seen this season.
Gareth Southgate knows what it really feels like to be an England manager now. No amount of imagining can properly prepare you for what it feels like to be on the bench when the opposition break through, are one-on-one with the keeper and you know how much hysteria there is going to be if you lose 1-0. Your heart is in your mouth and you feel the threat throughout your body.
Gareth would probably acknowledge that had the Slovenians had their finishing boots on, they would have won last week. If you give the opposition that many and those kind of chances, you would expect to lose. So in the end, it wasn’t a bad point.
Overall, though, he will know the team have to do much better against Scotland. When I saw the energy, urgency, movement and sharpness in the first half against Malta, I was encouraged. And it doesn’t matter who the opposition are – if you can play in that manner, it shows you are a good team.
But it became pedestrian in the second half against Malta and against Slovenia the movement of the ball was slow again. When we did get into midfield, the passes didn’t flow quickly enough into the final third. It was lacklustre with no cutting edge and we didn’t get enough clear chances.
Jurgen Klopp must press forward with Plan B when the magic fades
It is natural to take stock of Jurgen Klopp one year into career at Liverpool. Overall, I think it has been a good 12 months.
There have been some wonderful performances, and also some disappointing ones.
There have been magical spells this season against Arsenal and Leicester, where they have shown great ability. But there have also been a 2-0 defeat at Burnley and a poor first half in the 2-1 win at Swansea.
Their achilles heel is that after producing 20 minutes of pure football with their intense pressing high up the pitch, the foot can suddenly come off the pedal and they look very vulnerable. I do feel they have missed Emre Can sitting in midfield and his return against Manchester United on Monday may help.
The problem with the system is that if you overcome the ‘press’, either by being bold and playing through it or by sending over long balls, then there is inevitably a lot of space in front of the Liverpool back four and they are quite easy to pick off. They need a plan to deal with teams when they are not in those magical spells. That is when they defend properly.
Perhaps they need to stay deep for a period and make it difficult for teams. If you insist on pressing continually then a big team with ability will pick you off.
That is why you feel that Monday night’s game at Anfield ought to suit Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
They will expect Liverpool to show their attacking prowess so they will sit deep and hit them on the counter-attack. And with Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford they have the ideal players to do just that. The pair have tremendous pace and ability to get in behind defenders.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic, United have the perfect foil. He will love playing alongside them. If Ibrahimovic drops in a little deeper and the centre half goes with him, Lingard or Rashford will have the space to run in behind the defenders – and they both do that so well.
Rashford and Lingard will also enjoy playing with Ibrahimovic because they know that he has the ability to hold up the ball. He excels at that.
Mark Hughes was the same when he played in my Chelsea team. You knew the ball would stick to him. So, as a midfielder or wide player, you were happy to keep making runs, as you knew you would get the ball back. When the centre forward cannot hold the ball up, you stop making those runs out of frustration.
Due to Liverpool’s attacking ability and their vulnerability, I’m expecting a high-scoring draw. And the tactical battle between Klopp and Mourinho should make it a fascinating early-season contest.