Former England international Phil Neville believes that the criticism Wayne Rooney is currently receiving is unfair and potentially damaging to the Three Lions’ hopes at the World Cup.

The 28-year-old Manchester United forward’s role in Roy Hodgson’s XI has been called into question in the build-up to the tournament in Brazil, with some suggesting that he should be dropped altogether for the opening game with Italy on Saturday.

Although Rooney is, arguably, England’s star man, he record at major competitions in the white shirt has been relatively poor.

The powerful front-man has failed to net in eight World Cup games after showing initial promise with four strikes in EURO 2004 shortly after breaking into the national side.

Neville feels that Rooney is definitely the squad’s best player heading into the tournament, and that the treatment he is getting from some is unfair:

“I just think it is a witch-hunt we don’t need.” He told BBC Sport.

“Everything has been going so well with the team’s preparation that people are looking for a negative now. But there isn’t a negative with Wayne.

“There is a side of the English mentality to say ‘let’s look for a scapegoat and somebody to criticise’,

“But Wayne is our best player and that’s a fact.

“He looks fit and lean and I do not understand why people want him out.

“Hopefully this criticism will be Wayne’s motivation. I just get annoyed by it all and it sounds like Roy Hodgson is getting annoyed by it all too.”

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