Wayne Rooney was subjected to additional, intensive training on Monday, as speculation increased that he could struggle to keep his place in England’s starting line-up to face Uruguay in the World Cup on Thursday.
The Manchester United striker trained with a group comprised of the substitutes from Saturday’s defeat by Italy, rather than the rest of the starting XI, who had a much shorter session.
Rooney was not replaced in the group who started in Manaus, for a match in Sao Paulo that he has described as a “do or die”, but Roy Hodgson’s decision to increase his workload beneath the sweltering heat of the midday sun in Rio de Janeiro is confirmation that there are concerns over his form and fitness.
The 28-year-old admitted over the weekend that his England place is no longer guaranteed after the emergence of Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck, although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s hopes of playing against Uruguay appear to be fading after he again trained on his own with a heavily bandaged knee.
Whether he starts or not, England seem certain to face a Uruguay side containing the man they fear most. Luis Suarez, the Liverpool striker, described himself as “100 per cent” fit on Monday after knee surgery.
“I’m training today with the team and I feel in good condition,” Suarez said.
Rooney has made a concerted effort to get as fit as possible for the World Cup after being hindered by a lack of sharpness in previous tournaments, even taking two fitness coaches on a family holiday to Portugal before the squad met up, and his high workload continued on Monday.
Having completed a series of intensive ball drills with the substitutes, he stayed behind for more work after last weekend's starting XI had departed.
While Hodgson is unlikely to make significant changes for the Uruguay game, Rooney’s position remains up in the air, with the manager considering moving him back to a more central role in an attempt to get him on the ball more often, a switch which would involve using Sterling and Welbeck on the flanks.