Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Wayne Rooney ‘excited’ by battle for place in England’s starting XI

Wayne Rooney has stressed that he does not take his place in the England team for granted and finds the increased competition for places up front “exciting” as the injured national captain watched Roy Hodgson’s side slip to defeat against Holland.

The Dutch rallied with two controversial second-half goals to inflict England’s first defeat at Wembley since November 2013 and check the momentum generated by the encouraging win in Germany on Saturday. Rooney, who hopes to return to full training at Manchester United in “seven to 10 days”, was working as a pundit for ITV at the game and saw Jamie Vardy score a second goal in successive international games, as well as appearances for Daniel Sturridge, Harry Kane and Theo Walcott.

The progress of Kane and Vardy – they boast 40 Premier League goals between them this season – has thrust greater scrutiny on whether Rooney, England’s leading scorer with 51 goals, should return to the starting lineup when fit. “As I’ve said throughout my career with Manchester United and England, I never take my place for granted,” the striker said. “Obviously you want to play, and it is great that that competition is now there. With the quality we have got, it is exciting to be a part of.

“I don’t think of it in terms of needing to fight for my place. I think it is exciting. In previous tournaments, if everyone is fit, more or less the team is set. But now, no one knows what is going to happen. The manager can play three or four teams with different combinations if he wants, because I really believe we have got that quality. It is an opportunity for us to do really well in the summer.

“Obviously, the decision is down to Roy Hodgson, but I want to be there, involved and trying to help and hopefully leading the team to success.”

Hodgson had made eight changes from the starting lineup in Berlin and, despite dominating possession against Danny Blind’s Dutch – who have not qualified for Euro 2016 – the home side failed to create enough opportunities to hurt the visitors. Leading through Vardy’s first‑half goal, they gifted Holland an equaliser when John Stones slipped as he tried to turn away from Vincent Janssen. In the confusion which ensued, Danny Rose handled to concede a penalty that was converted by the striker.

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