Wayne Rooney has voiced his frustration at being "slaughtered" for Sam Allardyce’s claim that he could play "wherever he wants" for England by revealing that the humiliated former manager apologised for the remarks on the journey home from last month’s 1-0 victory against Slovakia.
Rooney goes into Saturday’s Wembley World Cup qualifier against Malta uncertain of his place in interim-manager Gareth Southgate’s team, despite being told he will retain the captaincy by Allardyce’s temporary successor. The Manchester United captain believes he paid a heavy price as a result of Allardyce’s remarks moments after the game in Trnava, when Rooney performed three different midfield roles during the 90 minutes.
But despite Allardyce’s comments, Rooney says he will play wherever he is asked to perform after insisting that the former Bolton and West Ham manager’s claim has created the perception that he has influence over team selection.
“Exactly,” Rooney said, in response to the suggestion that Allardyce’s remarks gave the impression that he helped pick the team. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. I play to instructions. Sam came out and said I play where I want. I played exactly to instructions, and what was asked of me.
“I'll play wherever the manager wants me. I don't pick myself, I haven't ever picked myself. I didn’t come in and say: 'I want to play here or there.' I played where I was asked to play. That was a big misunderstanding and I seemed to get slaughtered for it. I suffered from that. I got battered in many different ways when I felt it was actually a decent performance.”
Allardyce, who left his post after just one game in charge last week following an undercover investigation by The Daily Telegraph, was quick to apologise to Rooney, however.
“Sam knew he made a mistake,” Rooney said. “He said that to me on the plane home. He knew had made a mistake, but that’s part of being involved at this level. He understood that quite early, but unfortunately he doesn’t have the chance to rectify that now.”
Having lost his starting place at club level under Jose Mourinho at United, Rooney accepts that he must fight to return to the starting XI at Old Trafford. But despite Southgate’s refusal to confirm his place in the team against Malta this weekend, Rooney defended his performance against Slovakia, despite heavy criticism of his contribution.
“I certainly feel that in the last game against Slovakia, I was nowhere near as bad a lot of people were making out,” he said. “I felt that the change which Sam Allardyce made, in putting Dele Alli in the No 10 role and me and Eric Dier behind him, won us the game. I played in deeper midfield and I thought, I actually did quite well, especially in the second half. I helped control the game. I think it has all been blown up and that's it.”
Rooney will play under his sixth England manager if he is selected by Southgate for the forthcoming games against Malta and Slovenia. And he insists it is now time to look forward following Allardyce’s sudden departure. “It’s a shame it’s happened,” Rooney said. “I’m sure he deeply regrets it, but that was a decision for the FA to take and as players we have to work with Gareth.
“When the lads met up, everyone seemed fine and happy and we have some training sessions to work on how we’re going to play on Saturday.”Reuse content