England captain Wayne Rooney accused ex-manager Sam Allardyce of leaving him to be “battered” by claiming the Manchester United star could play “wherever he wants” for his country.
Allardyce made the pronouncement during a post-match news conference after the 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Slovakia last month, where Rooney was deployed in a deep-lying midfield role with mixed results.
It proved to be the former Sunderland boss’ solitary game in charge of the national team after he was targeted by a newspaper sting to bring about a dramatic downfall last week.
England host minnows Malta in Group F on Saturday, with interim manager Gareth Southgate taking the reins having assured Rooney he will retain the captaincy.
But the 30-year-old, who has lost his starting place at Manchester United at the start of the season, remains irritated over the impression created by Allardyce the he was influencing team selection and tactics – “which couldn’t be further from the truth”.
“Sam came out and said I play where I want. I played exactly to instructions, and what was asked of me,” Rooney said in an interview with national newspapers in the UK.
“I’ll play wherever the manager wants me. I don’t pick myself, I haven’t ever picked myself. I didn’t come in and say, ‘I want to play here or there’.
“I played where I was asked to play. That was a big misunderstanding and I seemed to get slaughtered for it. I suffered from that. I got battered in many different ways when I felt it was actually a decent performance.
“It was over the top. I played in deep midfield and I thought, being honest, I actually did quite well, especially in the second half. I helped control the game.
“I turn up like every other player, ready to play and, if selected, I will play hopefully how the manager wants me to play, and that’s it.
“Everyone else can say what they think, or what they think they know, but me, the manager and the players know what is required to do well.
“I played the role I was asked to play, played to instructions and that was it really. But it has all blown up.”
Rooney revealed Allardyce apologised for what he said and suggested the 61-year-old had shown a lack of experience at the highest level that he is now unable to gain.
“That’s part of being involved at this level,” he said.
“He knew he made a mistake. He said that to me on the plane home. He understood that quite early and unfortunately he doesn’t have the chance to rectify that now.”
Rooney, England’s record goalscorer who is closing in on a similar landmark at United, has failed to fully convince as a midfielder having been deployed there towards the end of last season by now departed Old Trafford boss Louis van Gaal.
Van Gaal’s successor Jose Mourinho pledged to return his captain to a more advanced role before going back on this in the defeat to Watford, where Rooney was dropped after a poor midfield performance.
Nevertheless, the player insists this is where he sees his long-term playing future and is frustrated by a lack of current opportunities to prove his worth in the position.
“I have heard a lot of people talking about transition – well, let me do it,” he added.
“I feel I am not being given a chance if that is the way I want to go in my career to expand it. I am not being given that chance to go from there to there [attack to midfield].
“It is all right talking about your career, saying you can extend it by doing this and that, but you need to be given the chance to do it.”
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