England boss Gareth Southgate insisted he had no option but to leave Wayne Rooney out of his squad to face Scotland and France after omitting the Three Lions skipper.
Despite being the country’s record international goalscorer with 53 strikes there was no place for Rooney in the party for next month’s World Cup qualifier with Scotland and friendly against France.
Rooney, who was left out of Southgate’s previous squad for games against Lithuania and Germany as he recovered from injury, has only started 15 leagues for United this term.
“I can’t dress it up any other way. Other players are in really good form and deserve to keep their place,” said Southgate. “If players are playing well and the moment is right then we will involve them in the squad.
“You never write off a player of Wayne’s quality and I’m sure that, next season, he’ll be back playing. He’s finished the season a bit better and I’m sure he’ll take that into next year.”
Southgate was also forced to defend his U-turn over selecting Marcus Rashford in the senior squad as opposed to him playing for the Under-21s in this summer’s European Championship. While in charge of the Under-21s, Southgate had argued that younger players needed tournament experience.
“He’s in the senior squad on merit and has been for a year,” added Southgate. “He’s a 19-year-old player who’s had an exceptional season and by then will have had virtually 60 matches. Somebody has to protect him.”