ENFIELD, UK: Gareth Southgate insists he hasn’t fallen out with Wayne Rooney as the England star battles to save his international career.
Southgate left Rooney out of England’s squad for last week’s friendly defeat in Germany and Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania due to the striker’s knee injury and lack of first team action with Manchester United.
Rooney had already been dropped by Southgate in previous England matches and his latest omission was widely interpreted as a sign the 31-year-old is no longer needed by his country.
But, speaking on Saturday, the England manager made it clear there is still time for Rooney to return to the fold.
“Absolutely. There’s no reason he’s finished with us,” Southgate said when asked if Rooney had a future with England.
It was reported Rooney declined Southgate’s invitation to attend a squad meeting on Monday because he was unhappy to have been dropped.
But United and the FA say Rooney was absent because he was having rehab for a leg injury and Southgate played peace maker as he pointed out other injured players also missed the get-together.
“Wayne had to have treatment, so no problem from my point of view. The important thing wasn’t that they couldn’t come but they felt invited,” he said.
After 14 years and 119 caps, Rooney, now a fringe figure at United, doesn’t want his final act as an England player to be apologizing for a reported late-night drinking session in between fixtures against Scotland and Spain last year.
England’s leading international goalscorer would relish an emotional send-off in the style of Lukas Podolski, who scored Germany’s winner against Southgate’s side in what was his farewell match before retiring.
But Southgate is adamant Rooney can play a part in his plans on the road to next year’s World Cup in Russia.
“I didn’t understand why we were talking about tributes when he’s still got every chance of being in the team,” Southgate said.
Meanwhile, Rooney’s United teammate Luke Shaw was called up by Southgate and played against Germany despite hardly featuring for Jose Mourinho’s team.
But the England boss says the left-back still had to prove he was worthy of a place for club and country after several year of injury problems.
“That’s for him and his club to deal with. He’s got a challenge to get himself in the team,” Southgate said.
“Luke’s sole focus has got to be how is he going to get back in the team.
“We want competition for places. If you are at a club like Manchester United it’s going to be the same.
“Ideally you have your players playing at the highest level, but we have to be open minded.
“I don’t want to have a hard and fast rule because I might have to break that.
“But the way you train and play makes the decision for you as a manager.”