London - Stand-in England manager Gareth Southgate hinted on
Monday that he will ask captain Wayne Rooney to continue playing in midfield
for his country.
Rooney, 30, has started Manchester United's last three games
on the bench amid an on-going debate about the best place for him to play as
his physical powers wane.
Both club manager Jose Mourinho and Sam Allardyce,
Southgate's short-lived predecessor, announced plans to deploy him as a number
10, although they then used him in more withdrawn midfield roles.
"I don't want to go against Jose, but I think Wayne can
play any number of different positions," said Southgate, who has kept
faith with Rooney as captain.
"The only thing I would say is I go back to one of the
things we work on with the team: in and out of possession, tactical discipline,
"So whatever position you play, it is clear to the
players that they understand that fully."
Rooney, England's record scorer (53 goals) and most-capped
outfield player (116 caps), played in midfield under Roy Hodgson during
England's ill-fated Euro 2016 campaign.
Mourinho subsequently vowed Rooney would "never"
play for him in midfield, but he has featured there at times for United this
Allardyce also expressed an intention to use Rooney further
forward, but the former Everton player conspicuously took up deep-lying
positions during last month's 1-0 win in Slovakia.
Citing Rooney's vast international experience, Allardyce
said "it's not for me to say where he's going to play".
Southgate conceded Rooney's lack of playing time with United
was "not ideal" and refused to confirm if he will start Saturday's
World Cup qualifier at home to Malta.
"I'm not prepared to give my team to the opposition,
but I'm clear in my mind how that will play out," said Southgate,
previously England's Under-21s coach.
Southgate, 46, is perhaps best known for squandering the
penalty that allowed Germany to progress to the final of Euro 96 at the expense
of hosts England.
He was appointed interim England manager last week following
the departure of Allardyce, who was brought down by a newspaper sting and left
after just 67 days in charge.
After Hodgson's exit, Southgate had said he did not feel
ready for the responsibility of the England manager's job.
While he refuses to look beyond his initial four-match
remit, which also includes qualifiers against Slovenia and Scotland and a
friendly with Spain, he insisted he was up to the task.
"I am always comparing myself against the highest
possible person in our field. This situation is different," Southgate told
reporters at England's St George's Park training centre.
"This is where circumstance throws up a situation where
you have got to assess quickly who is the right person to do this, and who is
going to do it well.
"Do I feel that I am the right person at this moment in
time to do this particular role? Yes. Absolutely. Anything else moving forward
is something that needs to be considered."
A stoppage-time Adam Lallana goal gave England a last-gasp
win away to Slovakia in Allardyce's one and only game at the helm.
Although Allardyce's tenure was fleeting, Southgate believes
it laid foundations for future success.
"To score that late goal ... I think was a small step,
a small brick in the wall of belief of what needs to happen," said the
former Middlesbrough manager.
"We have to build on that. It can't be the case that we
start again. We can't start again after Roy and start again after Sam. We've
got to go forward."