sport

Beckham: Rooney should play

Former England captain David Beckham says Wayne Rooney still deserves his place in the national side amid recent criticism of the striker's form.

Rooney missed the end of the domestic season with a minor groin strain and has been working to regain match fitness during England's pre-World Cup friendlies.

The Manchester United star scored from close range against Ecuador for his 39th international goal for England, but his displays have divided opinion.

Rooney is hoping to make a major impact at an international tournament for the first time since taking Euro 2004 by storm as an 18-year-old, and is still awaiting his first World Cup goal.

"I'd always back Wazza because he's a great talent and a great player for England," Sky Ambassador Beckham, who played with Rooney at the 2006 World Cup, told The Times.

"Wazza turns up and he always gives everything. I think the fans realise that as well.

"The games I've seen Wayne play for United, he's been the shining light this season. People say that he hasn't scored at a World Cup but Wazza has always been about more than scoring goals.

"If he doesn't score, he's always assisting or creating something for the team or working hard for the team. I think for opposing teams to see Wayne Rooney on a teamsheet, that scares them."

Rooney's place in the side has been questioned by Beckham's former England and United team-mate Paul Scholes, who used his blog to suggest the 28-year-old's best days may already be behind him.

"When you know Scholsey and you've been around him for many years, he doesn't say much but when he says it, it's always cutting," said Beckham.

"He's got a sharp tongue. He's a person that knows Wayne well and been around him for quite a few years and everyone is entitled to their opinion, not everyone is going to agree."

Beckham said the quality of the youngsters in England's squad made him excited for this tournament and beyond.

"I'm really excited about England. Roy Hodgson has gone for that young group and it makes it promising," he said.

"I think Raheem Sterling's a great talent. He plays with the flair of a kid who goes out and just plays. He deserves to be at a World Cup. Daniel Sturridge has had a great season. He's a talent who can hurt people and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will hopefully recover from his injury because he was exceptional the other night.

"People ask 'will the young players be ready for a stage like this?'. Yes, because they're playing in the biggest league in the world so I don't see why they will be afraid to play"