Rooney benched

Wayne Rooney is expected to drop to the bench for England’s away match against Slovenia on Tuesday as interim manager Gareth Southgate tries to keep the country’s World cup qualification on track in his two remaining qualifying games in charge.

Rooney was deployed in a midfield role in Saturday’s straightforward 2-0 win against Malta and bore the brunt of the expectant Wembley fans’ frustrations when missing a late shot, having been jeered earlier on by pockets of supporters.

Southgate has been forced to make difficult decisions before when he was manager of Middlesbrough in 2009.

Staff were let go as the club attempted to cut debts at the Riverside, with the interim England boss saying that is comfortably the hardest thing he has to do in football.

“Making some really close friends redundant – that’s probably as big (a decision) as you can get,” he said.

“I’ve got to make decisions which are right for the team and whenever you select a team, with England, you’re going to leave some (players disappointed).

“You look at the bench (against Malta) and there are guys that are playing every week in the Premier League for their clubs and so you have to be prepared to do that, that’s part and parcel of the job.”

Rooney will dominate the build-up to Tuesday’s match in Ljubljana, having last week admitted Jose Mourinho was right to drop him at Manchester United following an awful display at Watford.

The 30-year-old joined up with England on the back of three straight matches on the bench, but Southgate was “very pleased” by his display against Malta and does not appear overly concerned by Rooney’s lack of game time at United.

“I think at this moment in time that’s irrelevant,” he said. “Part of that is because we’ve got 30 per cent of the Premier League eligible for England.

“Of that, some don’t want to play, of that some aren’t good enough to play and you’ve got a captain who is desperate to lead on and off the field and continues to make outstanding contribution to that group of players, so that was why he was selected.

“What’s happening at Manchester United for this week is not as important.”

Southgate says Rooney’s authority, leadership and knowledge have been important attributes during his first week with the squad.

However, the decision to play him in midfield has given the interim boss a selection headache given Jordan Henderson’s fine display on Saturday and key man Eric Dier’s return to the fold.

“Eric was definitely a player we wanted to protect (in the Malta) game,” Southgate said. “He’s had hamstring injuries so playing two games in quick succession was going to be difficult.

“I wrote the team that I thought would start 10 days ago and we ended up five short, so always with international management you have some lovely ideas about what you’d like to do and where you’d like to go and the realities are often very different.

“The best thing for us it to assess everybody, see who’s available and have a look at the Slovenia game and check what we see is what we get and then have a think from there really.”

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