Burton-on-Trent, United Kingdom, Nov 10 – England captain Wayne Rooney will return to the starting line-up for his country’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Scotland on Friday, interim manager Gareth Southgate announced on Thursday.
Rooney, 31, started on the bench in England’s last game, a 0-0 draw away to Slovenia, after losing his place in Manchester United’s starting XI.
But he has started United’s last two games, scoring from range in their 2-1 Europa League defeat at Fenerbahce last week, and will win his 119th cap from the start against Scotland at Wembley.
“He’s confident and I think experience in a game like this is important,” Southgate told reporters at the St George’s Park football centre in Burton-on-Trent, central England.
“He’s in a better place than he was for the last get-together in terms of his sharpness, his confidence. There was no hesitation to be playing him.
“He’s playing well. He’s played well in his last couple of matches for Manchester United. When he’s in a rhythm of playing, that helps.”
Rooney takes the captain’s armband back from Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson, who Southgate confirmed will start.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane is also in contention to start after proving his fitness in training following his comeback from a seven-week lay-off with an ankle ligament injury.
Southgate said he had a fully fit squad to choose from and all 25 players at his disposal were present at the pre-match training session.
England are top of UEFA qualifying Group F after three games, two points above Lithuania and Slovenia and three points clear of old rivals Scotland.
England host Spain in a friendly on Tuesday, for what will be the last game of Southgate’s four-match stint following the departure of previous manager Sam Allardyce.
British newspaper reports suggest Southgate will be given the role full-time provided England avoid embarrassment against Scotland, but he said he did not feel any pressure.
“I’m really enjoying being in the role,” said the former England Under-21 coach.
“What happens to me is not important. We’ve got to win this game for the country and to be top of the group, heading to (World Cup hosts) Russia.
“That’s the task I was given. What happens to me is important to my family, but it’s not the reason and the focus for the game.
“I want the players to go out, enjoy their football and play well, and I’m sure they will.”
Southgate was reluctant to declare an interest in taking on the role full-time, but FA chief executive Martin Glenn is hopeful he will put his name forward.
“We get through the next two games and then we are going to put our heads together, talk to Gareth and really understand what his level of interest is in the role,” Glenn told reporters at the Sport Industry Breakfast Club in London.
“I hope he is interested and wants to put his hat in the ring. We have a bit of time then to assess him and then the other candidates.”