Wayne Rooney is back in as England’s leading man.
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Rooney, 31, was left out of the starting lineup for England’s World Cup qualifying draw in Slovenia last month but interim boss Gareth Southgate confirmed on Thursday that the Three Lions’ all-time leading goalscorer would start against fierce foes Scotland and lead the team out.
Southgate explained that Rooney’s return to the starting lineup will be pivotal for England.
“He’s in a better place than for the last get-together in terms of sharpness and confidence,” Southgate said. “He’s an experienced player for a game like this and there is no hesitation to be playing him.”
It is going to be an intense occasion at Wembley Stadium as 10,000 Scotland fans will make the journey south of the border as the oldest enemies in world soccer collide in Group F of 2018 World Cup qualifying in the UEFA region.
England sit top of the group after acquiring seven points from their opening three games, while Scotland sit in fourth place on four points as they’ve already lost at Slovakia and drawn with Lithuania. Another defeat for Scotland could all but end their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup as only the top team goes through automatically.
As for England, Southgate also confirmed that Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson will start in midfield and although it remains unknown where Rooney will line up, Southgate has options.
Harry Kane is now back fit and ready to play and he could start up top with Rooney just underneath him. Rooney had a free role in England’s narrow 1-0 win at Slovakia in their opening World Cup qualifier in September, but it is unlikely he will play that deep against Scotland at Wembley.
For Manchester United he has been lining up in a familiar position in either the No.10 role or as a central striker and that always seems to get the best out of the United skipper.
In a big game like this, Rooney’s experience and nous could be the difference for England.