Gareth Southgate fired a subtle warning to Wayne Rooney ahead of England’s 2018 World Cup qualifiers this week, claiming his captain needs to be more disciplined, despite his versatility.
Southgate was named interim boss for England’s next four games following Sam Allardyce’s shock exit last week, leaving the Football Association in a tough spot after the disastrous Euro 2016 campaign under Roy Hodgson.
Allardyce took charge of just one game for the Three Lions last month, winning their opening World Cup qualifier in Slovakia thanks to Adam Lallana’s injury-time strike, but one of the talking points from that clash was Rooney’s role in the team.
The 30-year-old featured in midfield and struggled to dictate the play, but Allardyce admitted after the game that he could play wherever he wanted due to his experience and stature at that level.
Southgate, though, is taking a different approach, making it clear that Rooney has to take some “tactical responsibility” regardless of his position.
“I think Wayne can play in a number of positions and very well,” the interim boss told his first press conference (via the Daily Mirror).
“What’s key for this team when I look at them is whatever system we play, whatever position we ask them to play, that there’s clear tactical responsibility.
“Wayne can play any number of different positions. One of the things we work on with the team is in and out of possession tactical discipline, a positional discipline so whatever position you play it is clear to the players that they understand that fully.”
Rooney has scored one goal and created a squad-high 12 chances in seven Premier League appearances for Manchester United this season, as they sit sixth on 13 points, five adrift of leaders Manchester City.
As for England, they take on Malta at Wembley on Saturday evening, before travelling to Slovenia, continuing their World Cup qualifying campaign.