Wayne Rooney is a tough guy and must start, says Pele

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Manchester United star Wayne Rooney is a "tough guy" and should always be picked for England if he does not have an injury, according to football great Pele.

The Brazilian legend was asked wether he thought Rooney warranted a place in Roy Hodgson's starting XI for the Three Lions' opening clash against Italy in Manaus on Saturday and dismissed any suggestion that the Old Trafford forward should be dropped. Pele cited Rooney's work rate and heart as reasons as to why he should stay in the team, revealing his admiration for the long-serving international.

"I admire him because he is a very tough guy and he works hard for the team," he is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

"If he has any injury, or does not stay in good shape, then of course he has to come out because he is not playing his best level. But I like him, and if I was the coach I would always look for a player like him in my team - no doubt!"

Rooney's place in the team has been questioned recently by more than a few people after some subdued performances in England's pre-tournament friendlies, while is his record in Worlds Cups is not the best - he has failed to score a single goal in two tournaments. However, the man who is considered by may to be the greatest player that ever lived and who won the World Cup three times as a player is not worried at all.

While his recent England performances may not have been outstanding, Rooney was coming back after injury kept him out of Manchester United's final three games of the season. Few can deny it was a miserable season under David Moyes, but Rooney was one of the bright spots and was most likely the Old Trafford club's most impressive player.

He finished the season as top goalscorer in the Premier League with 17 strikes and made more assists in the competition than any other Manchester United player with nine. The 28-year-old will play a deeper role for England than he did for much of the season with the Red Devils, as Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge will likely be chosen to lead the line but Rooney is incredibly important to the team as a creative force and the weight of his experience.

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