Ljubljana (Slovenia) (AFP) – England captain and all-time leading goalscorer Wayne Rooney has been dropped to the bench for the World Cup qualifier away to Slovenia on Tuesday, interim manager Gareth Southgate said.

Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson will lead the side out in Ljubljana as England look to maintain their perfect start to qualifying. 

Manchester United star Rooney dropped back to play as a deep-lying midfielder in England’s 2-0 win over Malta at Wembley on Saturday and was booed by some sections of the home support during a lacklustre display.

“It’s very straight forward,” Southgate told reporters in Ljubljana on Monday as he explained why Rooney, best known as a forward but now increasingly deployed in midfield by England, had been left out.

“We have looked at the way Slovenia play and I knew in my mind the profile of the midfield I wanted to play in this game. 

“In no way is it a reflection of Wayne’s performance on Saturday,” former England defender Southgate added.

“He had a lot of the ball, played with great tactical discipline. It’s not an easy decision to take because of the respect I have for him as the captain of this team.”

Rooney, sitting alongside Southgate at the press conference, said: “I think of course you want to play. I understand and respect the manager’s decision. I will support the players 100 percent and try to help them get three points. I will be ready to come off the bench if needed. 

“Hopefully we can get the three points. I show great pride in playing for my country whether that’s from the start or the bench,” added the 30-year-old, also on the bench for United’s last three matches.