Wayne Rooney was pictured working hard in training ahead of England’s World Cup qualifier with Slovenia in Ljubljana, despite reports suggesting that the captain will be forced to watch the contest from the bench.
The 30-year-old, left on the bench by Jose Mourinho for Manchester United last three games, was handed a chance to impress as a midfielder by Gareth Southgate against Malta.
However, following what was an abject performance against the minnow side, the captain has been consigned to the bench for England’s next qualifier against Slovenia.
Rooney was seen putting in the hard yards during England’s final training session before they take on Srečko Katanec’s side on Tuesday night.
For several years, Rooney has been selected on the pretext of reputation, as opposed to merit. However, in the space of a few weeks, the arbitrary stigma surrounding the 30-year-old has been eliminated.
Southgate has, it seems, immediately instilled a strict meritocracy when it comes to selection. Is Rooney better than Eric Dier in defensive midfield? No. Is he better than Dele Alli at No.10? No. And is he better than Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge. Absolutely not.
It is no surprise, therefore, to see Rooney’s role reduced to that of a squad player, now that the strange illusion of reputation and experience has been eradicated from the minds of Mourinho and Southgate when it comes to finding an appropriate place for the Englishman.