Wayne Rooney has been selected to start for England tonight against Scotland along with Manchester United team-mates Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley who are also in Roy Hodgson's starting XI for the Wembley friendly.
It will be Rooney's first game of pre-season, other than the behind-closed-doors friendly against Real Betis at Manchester United's training ground last week. Hodgson selected Joe Hart, Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Cleverley, Welbeck and Rooney in his starting XI.
As expected, Ashley Cole was left on the bench following his relatively late arrival to join up with the squad yesterday, having only returned on Sunday from Chelsea's series of games in the United States. Although his Chelsea team-mate Cahill plays. At right-back, Walker has been selected ahead of Glen Johnson, the latter of whom has started 12 of Hodgson's 16 games so far in charge of the national team.
It is only the second time that Gerrard and Wilshere have started alongside one another in an England team, the previous occasion being the win over Brazil at Wembley in February. The United midfielder Michael Carrick withdrew from the squad this morning with an eye infection.
Tonight's game is the last friendly before England's final four World Cup qualifiers against Moldova, Ukraine (away), Montenegro and Poland. England are in second place in qualifying group H for the 2014 World Cup finals, behind leaders Montenegro who have two more points and played one more game. Hodgson wrote in his programme notes that he considered the next few months “the final step on our journey towards qualification”.
He said: “Unless we had achieved maximum points, as only Holland currently have, one could never be totally satisfied but I've been most pleased without performances and am confident that these players will finish the job in the final four games and qualify for Brazil next summer.”
Gordon Strachan picked James Forrest, the 22-year-old Celtic winger in his first XI. The Scotland side tonight is Allan McGregor, Alan Hutton, Grant Hanley, Russell Martin, Steven Whittaker, Robert Snodgrass, James Morrison, Scott Brown, Forrest, Shaun Maloney and Kenny Miller. Rio Ferdinand, who has been highly critical of the Football Association's approach to developing junior England sides announced on Twitter that he was watching “The Smurfs” movie at the cinema this evening.
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