London (AFP) – Wayne Rooney has promised to accept whatever role England manager Gareth Southgate wants him to play after admitting he is tired of the debate about his best position.
Rooney has spent the best days of his glittering career as a striker, but he was deployed in midfield by then England boss Roy Hodgson at Euro 2016 after finishing last season with Manchester United in the same position.
Jose Mourinho’s arrival at United to replace Louis van Gaal has seen Rooney shifted back to a more attacking berth.
However, the England captain often positioned himself in a deep-lying role in last month’s World Cup qualifier against Slovakia.
That was the only match for England manager Sam Allardyce before his shock departure last week and, with interim boss Southgate preparing to name his side for Saturday’s qualifier against Malta, Rooney has been quizzed about his preferred role once again.
“I don’t know, it’s a question for Gareth,” a visibly annoyed Rooney told reporters on Tuesday.
“The question of where I’m going to play… it’s getting a bit tired the question of whether I’m going to play as a striker, in midfield or as a number 10.
“I’ve answered that question many times and it’s the same answer: I’ll play wherever the manager wants me to play.
“I don’t pick myself, I haven’t picked myself ever and I will play to instructions.
“I’m sure the instructions from Gareth, whether it’s to play or not to play, are instructions I will carry out to the best of my ability.”
– Irritation –
Rooney’s clear irritation at the constant questions compounds a difficult time for the 30-year-old at club level.
Named on the bench for United’s last three matches, he arrives on England duty in the unusual position of looking for game time.
“Of course you want to play as a footballer player but it is my job, I love football and I love being involved with the team,” he said.
“Obviously I’m not starting at the moment at Manchester United but I have to work hard to try to get back in the team and the starting line-up, which I’m doing, and when I get my chance I have to take it.
“But again I’m fully supportive of the team and the players, the manager and Manchester United.
“Of course I want to be involved but the most important thing is that we win.”
Rooney’s desire for team success is just the same at international level, where Southgate will be leaning on him to lead during this unstable period.
Understandably pleased to have been kept on as captain by his former international team-mate, Rooney hopes to repay the manager with strong performances against Malta and Slovenia over the next week.
“Of course we have to come here and be prepared to do our job,” Rooney said.
“In terms of starting again, I’m not sure. We need to build on the three points we got in the last game.
“We have to concentrate on the football, which I’m sure we will have no problem doing and the other side of it is not our issue or anything for us to be concerned about.”
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