Wayne Rooney: England boss Gareth Southgate confirms Manchester United striker will drop to the bench in Slovenia

The 30-year-old was booed as England defeated Malta 2-0 but Southgate has defended his display

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The Independent Football

Gareth Southgate has confirmed that Wayne Rooney will drop to the bench for England’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia.

The 30-year-old Manchester United striker was booed as England defeated Malta 2-0 in Southgate’s first match in charge on Saturday, but both player and manager have moved to quell the suggestion that his international career is all but over.

Southgate, speaking in Ljubljana, said: “It is very straightforward. We’ve looked at Slovenia, the way they play and the profile of midfield that we wanted to play, what was needed for this game. 

“In no way is it a reflection on Wayne’s performance on Saturday. In fact, we were very pleased with what he did; we knew he would have a lot of the ball, he dictated the game, and played with great tactical discipline. 

“Of course, it was not an easy decision to take because of the respect I have for him as a player, as a person and as a captain of this team. We felt it was the right decision to go with the team that we’re starting with.”

Southgate provided some detail on how he came to the decision to bench Rooney, revealing he held a meeting with the Everton youth graduate before going public with the news on Monday evening. Jordan Henderson, the Liverpool captain, will deputise as England skipper in Rooney's absence. 

He added: “I felt it was important to give him time to think how he wanted to deal with it. We spoke at length yesterday and I think that was the right thing to do. I think you have to be conscious that when you make a decision involving Wayne there are bigger implications. 

“Not only did he accept the news with great professionalism but he was also keen to come and speak today. I wasn’t sure that was the correct decision because I don’t want to subject him to being in the spotlight more than he already is but on reflection it’s a great opportunity for him to talk about his pride of playing for his country and let you know how he feels about it.”

Rooney, meanwhile, was keen to stress that he still takes great pride from representing his country and is prepared to do so from the bench if that’s his only avenue with which to do so.

“Of course you want to play,” he said. “I understand and respect the manager’s decision. I’ll support the players 100 per cent and try and help them get three points tomorrow. I’ll be ready to come on from the bench if needed and hopefully we can get three points. I show great pride in playing for my country, whether that’s from the start or from the bench.

“My role as captain won’t change. I’ll be supporting the players 100 per cent, which I’ve done over the last few days. I’ve said before, if selected, I’m available to play, I love playing for my country I made it clear the last time I was here, what my plans are. 

“I take great pride in playing for my country and whether that’s from the bench or not, nothing has changed in terms of my future over the coming years.”