Fit but Rooney out of favour

United captain's England days numbered as Southgate sees better options for No. 10 role

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney reacts during the match against AFC Bournemouth.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney reacts during the match against AFC Bournemouth.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Wayne Rooney's international career appears to be drawing to its close, after it emerged that he had been left out of England's latest squad despite declaring himself fit and he is no longer seen by manager Gareth Southgate as the team captain.

The 31-year-old has been omitted from England's 26-manparty for the friendly in Germany  on Wednesday, followed by the World Cup qualifier against Lithuania four days later, despite telling Southgate that he is available to play for Manchester United at Middlesbrough tomorrow.

Southgate admitted that Rooney was unhappy about the decision but praised England's record scorer for the ''very mature'' way he took the news.

Rooney has, in turn, been invited to a squad meeting at St George's Park on Monday when Southgate, speaking in a way that has become rare for England managers, intends to deliver some ''brutal'' truths about the diminished state of English football.

He does not intend to sugar-coat his words, judging by a long diatribe at his squad announcement in which hedescribed himself as embarrassed by England's failures - ''We've won three knockout games in 27 years and the last one was in 2006'' - and the man who dropped Rooney in his second game as care taker manager made it clear the United man now faces a challenge to get into the squad, nevermind the team.

''We have to look at Wayne as a No. 10, which is his predominant role,'' Southgate said. ''In the last two games we've played Dele Alli there and we've played Adam Lallana there. Both are playing very well, scoring and assisting for their clubs.

''Ross Barkley has been playing very well for his club. So there's competition. I can't dress it up any other way... it's a battle to get in this squad.''

Southgate also dropped forward Theo Walcott, despite the Arsenal forward netting 17 goals in 29 appearances in all competitions at club level and being on course to overhaul his best season tally-21 in 2012-13.

The manager had a heated argument with Walcott over the phone while informing the Gunner of the decision on a day the player was celebrating his 28th birthday.

''I've got to say he wasn't chuffed to bits to get the call,'' Southgate said. ''And I understand that. Did he argue his case? Yes. Quite rightly, he said, 'I'm one of the leading goal scorers in the league.'

''I don't mind being challenged on that. I totally respect that. I don't expect him to be happy but I've got to make decisions and I think it was the right thing to call him to talk that through - even if the timing wasn't great.''

Southgate named a host of players who can operate on the flanks, including United's Jesse Lingard and Southampton pair Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse, who have been called up for the first time. He also recalled Sunderland's Jermain Defoe, who has scored 14 of the Black Cats' 24 league goals this season but last appeared for England in November 2013 when he won his 55th cap.

Defoe, 34, along with United's Marcus Rashford and Leicester's Jamie Vardy, will be the strikers.

The manager also picked two other uncapped players, Michael Keane of Burnley and West Ham's Michail Antonio. Jake Livermore of  West Bromwich Albion will be involved for the first time in almost five years and Southgate has decided to keep faith with LukeShawat a time when the left-back is barely figuring for United.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline 'Fit but Rooney out of favour'. Subscribe