Sam Allardyce got his England reign off to a winning start in Slovakia on Sunday, but there were big question marks over Wayne Rooney after the game.
A last-gasp Adam Lallana winner secured all three points in another disappointing England performance, but ultimately it would have been a relief and source of great joy for Allardyce to start with a win.
However, Rooney, making his 116th appearance in a Three Lions shirt, played largely in a midfield role, deeper than many were expecting with suggestions prior to kick off that he would be deployed in a No.10 position.
Despite heavy criticism after the game, Allardyce stuck by his captain but also offered a very questionable assessment of the situation with the Manchester United star.
“Wayne played wherever he wanted to,” Allardyce told reporters. “He did play a little deeper than I thought he’d play, but I was pleased with his performance.
“It’s not for me to say where he’s going to play. It’s up to me to ask whether he’s doing well in that position and contributing.”
Rooney has almost 200 Premier League goals to his name, has a sizeable collection of trophies and individual accolades, and has been considered England’s best player on paper for many years.
However, his performances for club and country, particularly with England for a number of international tournaments, have flattered to deceive and he has failed to live up to expectations and deliver when necessary.
With questions being asked of his position in the United starting line-up already this season, it doesn’t bode well for a man who announced last week that he would retire from international football after the 2018 World Cup.
Having made two massive assumptions that England will qualify, which they should, and that he’ll be a consistent part of the squad between now and Russia in two years time, he’s already put himself under the spotlight more than he needed to.
Nevertheless, for Allardyce to claim that he can play ‘wherever he wants’ and that ‘it’s not for him to say where he’s going to play’ is just plain wrong.
Put international experience to the side, the former West Ham United and Bolton Wanderers boss is the England manager, and he tells players where they should play and must take players out who are harming the team in general.
Rooney still possesses plenty of quality and can make a difference on his day, but with the midfield looking imbalanced and Harry Kane isolated up front, something has to change.
Just a few months on from being held by Slovakia at Euro 2016, not much really looked as if it had changed under Allardyce. That’s not to say that he’s going to revolutionise the England team, but he has to learn from old mistakes and make improvements, including potentially dropping Rooney.