Interim England coach Gareth Southgate reserved plenty of praise for Wayne Rooney on Monday, but also issued a warning to him and his teammates over tactical awareness.
The 46-year-old labelled the England captain an “outstanding leader” who has “impressively matured into that role” in his first press conference, according to The Telegraph.
As noted by The Guardian, former England boss Sam Allardyce caused a stir with his comments last month when suggesting that the Manchester United captain could “play wherever he wants”.
However, it doesn’t appear as though Southgate will be following a similar path, and will evidently be looking for all the players, including Rooney, to remain disciplined and carry out the role they’re asked to play rather than freely roam and choose where they feel they are most efficient.
“The only thing I would say, I go back to one of the things we work on with the team, in and out of possession, tactical discipline, positional discipline [is important], whatever position you play. The players must understand that fully,” he said, as reported by The Telegraph.
“One of the biggest things we’ve felt younger English players need to take on board, with and without the ball, that tactical understanding.”
Southgate went on to insist that he believes Rooney can still play in various positions, which is in contrast to United boss Jose Mourinho who has deployed the 30-year-old as a N0.10 for much of the season believing that is still his best role.
However, another problematic element of the Rooney situation is that he hasn’t even been starting for his club in recent weeks, and that has ultimately led to further scrutiny over his place in the England squad.
Nevertheless, Southgate appears to be set to rely on him in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia as they look to build on their win over Slovakia last time out.
Time will tell as to where the interim manager plays Rooney, but there will undoubtedly be plenty of attention as to how he performs as he looks to silence his critics and prove his on-going worth to the England team.