Wayne Rooney’s tears steal the show on odd night for England
Manager Gareth Southgate said he held back on criticism after Rooney’s farewell speech
England’s Wayne Rooney applauds the fans after the 3-0 friendly win over the USA at Wembley. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters
England 3 USA 0
England manager Gareth Southgate shelved plans to criticise his players for their second-half performance in victory over United States after Wayne Rooney stole the stage by delivering a tearful post-match speech in the dressingroom as he called time on his international career.
Southgate had been dissatisfied with aspects of the team’s display after half-time, his thoughts already turning to Sunday’s deciding Nations League tie against Croatia where England can either claim their three-team group or, should they lose or draw, be relegated to League B. Southgate intended to point out the team’s shortcomings immediately after the final whistle, only for Rooney to take to the floor to thank the group for welcoming him back into the fold.
“There were some good moments, but I didn’t like us as much without the ball, and they got through us too easily in the second half,” said Southgate as he assessed what ended up a comfortable victory.
“We didn’t play with discipline in the end. We were wide open and, if we do that on Sunday, we will lose. We haven’t had that discussion yet because Wayne gave a really nice speech at the end and I didn’t want to rain on his parade, but we’ll be making that point before Sunday. If we want to be a top team we can’t get to 3-0 and suddenly decide not to play without the ball. We have to play with intelligence right through the game.
“We were very keen that we moved on from the World Cup as quickly as possible, but it has been a brilliant year. Whatever happens on Sunday, we’ve got real shoots of progress and have achieved some outstanding results and really good performances, and blooded a lot of new players.
“There’s depth and competition for places. But everyone wants to go another stage and get to a semi-final out of a group that is as tough as there is in this competition. So Sunday is a good game to look forward to, with a sell-out crowd and a game with plenty riding on it. Someone is probably sitting in Geneva patting himself proudly on the back.”
Rooney’s 120th and final cap amounted to a 32-minute cameo, and a shot with virtually his last touch which Brad Guzan did well to save, as the England’s record goalscorer bowed out after a glittering 15-year career at this level. “It went as I imagined it, really,” he said.
“It’s been great the last few days, to see how they’re working and improving. It’s great the Football Association are celebrating players who have left a mark on international football in England. It’s the right thing to do and I’m sure it will happen again.
“Before playing the game I asked Harry Kane to present me with the award because I believe he will beat my goalscoring record and I look forward to presenting him with the trophy. It was a special day for me and my family. It’s difficult, even as a senior player, to walk back into a dressingroom where there are new staff and a lot of players he hadn’t played with, but he’s been brilliant,” added Southgate, who saw Callum Wilson net on his debut and Trent Alexander-Arnold score his first international goal.
“The time he’s giving to all the players, the little conversations with some of the younger ones ? he spoke about what playing for England had meant to him, and what it should mean to the three debutants. Then there was the humility he showed in training, tracking back in the five-a-sides as if his life depended on it.
“He had some lovely touches tonight, too, and some exquisite through balls, and ended up a yard to the left of Brad Guzan from a fairytale ending. We wanted to test some young players, and we had a very inexperienced team out there, but they’ve come through and learned a lot, and we’ve paid our respects to one of our greatest ever players. We did that in a way we felt was fitting.” – Guardian service