Interim England manager Gareth Southgate has thrown his full support behind incumbent national Captain Wayne Rooney, suggesting he would persist with the out of favour Manchester United man.
Speaking to Sky Sports post-match, Southgate was clearly pleased with the display from the forward-come-midfielder.
“I thought he dictated play and controlled the game for us,” Southgate said of Rooney, “having his experience and leadership not only today but through what’s been a difficult week has been very important.” Rooney can thus expect to continue in his deeper midfield role with England for some time yet.
Southgate remained effusive in his praise of Rooney, despite his lack of recent playing time at club level, “I think at this moment in time that’s irrelevant,” going on to give some insight into his thoughts on the issues that hinder his quest for national success, aligned with the merits of Rooney the individual.
“We’ve got 30 per cent of the Premier League eligible for England. Of that, some don’t want to play, some aren’t good enough and you’ve got a captain who is desperate to lead on and off the field and continues to make outstanding contributions to that group of players.”
Rooney was arguably one of England’s better performers in the 2-0 win over Malta, whoscored.com marking him best afield with a rating of 8.4/10. A powerful Daniel Sturridge header from long range and a tidy Dele Alli finish on the second chance gave the Three Lions a deserved victory, even though it was not as resounding as anticipated.
See below for the official post-match Southgate press conference from the FA: