Football: Rooney likely to start on the bench

Wayne Rooney has not started in Manchester United's last three games but leaving him out of England's starting line-up for tonight's game will be a psychological boost to Slovenia.
Wayne Rooney has not started in Manchester United's last three games but leaving him out of England's starting line-up for tonight's game will be a psychological boost to Slovenia.PHOTO: REUTERS

While Southgate knows skipper's influence in dressing room, he'll only pick in-form players

LONDON • Gareth Southgate is set to drop Wayne Rooney from the England team for today's 2018 World Cup football qualifier against Slovenia in Ljubljana and increase uncertainty over the captain's role in the national side.

Rooney's place has been under scrutiny since England's woeful departure from Euro 2016 but he started in midfield for Sam Allardyce in England's opening qualifier against Slovakia, which they won 1-0, and played against Malta on Saturday in a routine 2-0 victory at Wembley under Southgate.

But the interim manager is expected to bring Eric Dier into the side in Rooney's place in Southgate's first major test since being handed the reins following Allardyce's sudden departure last month.

On Sunday, Southgate talked up Rooney's influence inside the dressing room and stressed the positives in the 30-year-old's contribution against Malta.

But he also made clear that he would have the courage to drop Rooney, particularly given the forward's troubles at Manchester United where Jose Mourinho has not started him in any of the past three games.

"I've got to make decisions which are right for the team and, whenever you select a team for England, you're going to leave out some players," Southgate said. "You look at the bench (against Malta) and there are guys who are playing every week in the Premier League, so you have to be prepared to do that (make tough decisions). That's part and parcel of the job."

The Slovenia manager, Srecko Katanec, said yesterday that he would not be surprised if Rooney is dropped.

"Wayne Rooney is a leader of this team, he has the experience a captain needs and it is quite hard to substitute him or leave him out. But it is also true that he is not the youngest any more and maybe his form has taken a little dip," he said.

But he also suggested that leaving Rooney on the sidelines could be beneficial to the hosts. "Because of his experience and quality I would rather he would not start than he does start," said Katanec.

Slovenia, who lost twice to England in Euro 2016 qualifying, go into the game on the back of a morale-boosting 1-0 victory over Slovakia. But Katanec wants his men to approach the game in measured fashion.

"I warned the guys against too much euphoria after the Slovakia result," he said. "You cannot compare the two teams; England have a lot more quality in every way. The team function very well and we expect a tough match in every aspect.

"England have very quick players and are very fast in transition from defence to attack. But we don't need to be afraid of the game or afraid to lose. The guys are unburdened."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

SLOVENIA V ENGLAND

Singtel TV Ch109, tomorrow, 2.35am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline 'Rooney likely to start on the bench'. Print Edition | Subscribe