Gareth Southgate delighted Wayne Rooney could end his England career in style

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Gareth Southgate was glad to give Wayne Rooney the send-off he deserved as England prepared for Sunday’s crunch Nations League clash against Croatia by beating the United States.

The Wembley crowd helped pay tribute to the Three Lions’ all-time top-scorer and most capped outfield player on Thursday, when the forward was just inches away from marking his 120th and final cap with a memorable goal.

It would have been a dream end to a 3-0 win that saw Southgate juggle honouring Rooney and building for the future, with Callum Wilson – one of three debutants against the USA – completing the scoring after first-half goals from Jesse Lingard and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

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Remember the name.

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“I thought some of our attacking play, the first half hour and last 20 minutes, was really exciting,” Southgate said.

“Some really nice moments for some of the debutants, in particular, for some of the young players – for Trent to get his first England goal, a really well worked bit of attacking play, nice decision and weighted pass from Jadon (Sancho).

“Great for Callum to get his goal – he probably would feel he might have had that earlier in the game – so some good moments there.

“I didn’t like us without the ball as much. I thought at times we pressed really well, but at times the USA got through us too easily and towards the end of the game we didn’t play with discipline.

“We were caught in transition and wide open. If we do that on Sunday, we will lose.

“We haven’t had that discussion because Wayne gave a really nice speech at the end and I didn’t want to rain on his parade!”

Rooney’s team-mates ensured that he got the number 10 shirt in Thursday’s match, as well as the captain’s armband when he came on in the 58th minute – gestures that the forward clearly appreciated.

Wayne Rooney came on in the 58th minute
Wayne Rooney came on in the 58th minute (Nick Potts/PA)

“Even for him as a senior player, it’s difficult to walk back into a dressing room.

“A lot of players he’s played with, but a lot he hasn’t and there’s a lot of new staff.

“He has been brilliant I have to say. The time he’s given to all of the players, the little conversations he’s had with a lot of the younger ones.

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That first #ThreeLions goal feeling… ?

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“So, some really excellent messages and the humility he showed in his training – he’s tracking back in the five-a-sides as if his life depended on it.

“Tonight, he had some lovely touches, a couple of really exquisite through balls, and we were a yard to the left of Brad Guzan away from a fairytale ending for him.

“We wanted to predominantly look at some young players in what was a good level of opponent to test them.

“We had a really inexperienced team out there again, so they’ve come through and learned a lot, and we’ve paid our respects to one of our greatest ever players.

“And I think hopefully we managed within our group to do that in a way we felt was fitting.”

DC United forward Rooney now returns to his post-Major League Soccer season downtime as England focus on winning Nations League Group A4 after Croatia shocked Spain 3-2 on Thursday.

“It’s shown the quality that Croatia have,” Southgate added.

“We knew that would be a tough game because I think probably the first game they’ve had at home since the World Cup with a crowd in, so it would have been an electric atmosphere.

“They’ve shown not only their quality but their resilience again to win it in the 93rd minute.

“It’s brilliant. It sets up a really good finish to the year here. I think it was already a sell-out crowd and it’s a game with plenty riding on it, which is exactly the sort of test we want.”

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