England manager Gareth Southgate has explained his decision to leave Wayne Rooney out of his starting XI to face Slovenia on Tuesday.
The coach has dropped his skipper after weeks of poor showings for his club and country, although the 46-year-old denies that the forward’s performance against Malta had anything to do with his decision.
‘It’s very straight forward. 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,’ Southgate said in a press conference on Monday.
‘In no way is it a reflection of Wayne’s performance on Saturday. 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.’
He added: ‘It is a football decision. It’s based on the opposition. On a human level it’s a very difficult decision because I don’t like some people getting an element of satisfaction that he’s not in the team.
‘I am probably more annoyed on that than he is because he has had to deal with that throughout his career.”
Rooney has also been dropped to the substitutes’ bench for club Manchester United recently, with Jose Mourinho preferring the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front and Paul Pogba in midfield.
Tottenham’s Eric Dier will come in to the side in Rooney’s place on Tuesday, with the 22-year-old bringing more defensive nous in the middle of the park.
He continued: ‘I think it’s clear that you are talking about two different profiles of player. Different attributes. That’s the basis of the decision.
‘As a coach you have to look at the right setup for that game. I knew with this situation that obviously the news would leak. It was pretty obvious that Eric would come into the game.’