Ruud Gullit feels Wayne Rooney’s career has taken a downward spiral due to the positions he has been asked to play by various managers over the years.
The Dutchman’s view comes despite Rooney already surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton’s England goals record, while he is just four shy of breaking his long-standing record haul for Manchester United.
But ahead of Saturday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford, Gullit feels Rooney – who scored arguably the greatest of his 246 goals for the club with an overhead kick against Man City in February 2011 – could have topped that total months ago, had he not been asked to play out of position.
“I’ve seen so many coaches or managers over the years mess Rooney about,” Gullit told the Daily Mirror.
“They’ve been juggling him between theposition, the striker’s position or an attacking role from the left. Sir Alex, in the end, used him in that role.
“I feel that Wayne has never been able to focus on one position during his career. Rooney is a player who could play very well in theposition, as a kind of a fake striker.
“Somehow it was always depending of the players around him, or the way the opposition played, where managers decided to put Rooney in the team.
“To a certain extent I can see the point of a manager, but for Rooney this has often worked in a negative way.
“The fact is that that all these changes of positions for him in different games and under different managers led to continuous debates about his ideal role and position.
“Ever since Rooney started playing at top level, which is most of his career, the media have been wondering ‘Is he a striker or a?’
“In my opinion it’s a very superficial debate most of the time, as this was mainly instigated by the amount of goals he was scoring. If Rooney didn’t score for three weeks, he suddenly was aagain.
“If he scored two goals as a, he should play as a striker again in the eyes of all the experts in the media.
“I feel sorry for him as I don’t think Rooney will ever be without this massive debate during the rest of his career. People will never stop discussing his position.”
The debate over Rooney’s position has raged over recent months with Louis van Gaal dropping Rooney back into midfield, before Jose Mourinho declared the player “definitely not a midfielder”.
However, Sir Alex Ferguson was not against playing Rooney on the left of a forward three, while new England boss Sam Allardyce most recently declared that Rooney could “play wherever he wanted” after the player dropped very deep in the World Cup qualification win in Slovakia.