Wayne Rooney admits he deserved to be dropped by Manchester United but insisted he is not finished as a force for club and country.
England’s captain has been on the bench for United’s last three matches, having paid the price for what he called a ‘bad game’ at Watford on September 18, and it has left critics wondering whether this is the beginning of the end for Rooney.
This is the most difficult period of his 14-year top-flight career and Rooney candidly admitted at St George’s Park that he’s ‘not as quick as I was’ but he has promised to show why Jose Mourinho and England’s interim manager Gareth Southgate can rely on him to be a positive influence.
‘People have their opinions and are entitled to them,’ said Rooney, who ‘doesn’t know’ whether Southgate will start him against Malta on Saturday.
‘It is football and you cannot play all the time even if you want to. I am at a stage I want to play. I am a fighter. I want to get back in the team.
‘I will work hard to try and do that. I’ve had a lot of criticism at times. This is where I am at. I am sure people who know me know I will come back. I played bad, I know that and I understand that. I think if he was picking the next team on the back of that I understand not playing.
‘The team have done well, certainly in the Leicester game since that. I understand I have to work hard and try and get back and try and get my chance and take it. If I’m on the bench, so be it. I’ll fight, I won’t not fight for my place, I’ll fight to try and get back in.’
‘We’ll concentrate on football’: Rooney talks ahead of Malta game
Rooney, who maintains his desire to keep playing for England has nothing to do with breaking Peter Shilton’s record of 125 caps, added: ‘I know I can do better. If I don’t play very well there is a massive over-hype. It comes from everywhere, really, so I have to just focus on playing.’
He also cleared up where he sees his future position. Rooney believes he is a midfielder, saying: ‘I feel I can control and dictate games from there. I’m not saying I’m better. I’m saying I can play there to a very high standard. Time will tell.’
Burnley defender Michael Keane was called up to join the squad yesterday after Glen Johnson – who had been a surprise inclusion – withdrew.
Everton defender Phil Jagielka came out of Southgate’s first training session early as a precaution. England are assessing his fitness.