Wayne Rooney has questioned whether Gareth Southgate is getting the best out of Phil Foden for England and blamed Manchester City’s influence on the midfielder.
Foden was one of few positives to take from England’s disappointing 0-0 draw with Scotland on Friday, though Southgate clearly wanted more as he withdrew the 21-year-old after an hour.
It was a frustrating evening for the youngster, who tried in vain to drive his side forward with a number of mazy runs, but often ran down blind alleys.
And Rooney believes Foden’s difficulties stem from his experiences at City, where he has been crafted by Pep Guardiola into the ultimate team player.
England’s all-time record goalscorer told The Times : “I love Foden as a footballer but you have to realise that, for four years and more, he has been moulded into a City player.
“It is hard for him to turn up and just change how he has been playing since the age of 16. City play in the final third. They keep possession there. Foden is not a dribbler but a player who plays nice little passes and moves into good positions.”
Rooney explained how Guardiola’s decision to not let Foden leave on loan had had some negative effects as Foden knows no other way of playing than the Spaniard’s ‘total football’ approach.
He added that City’s short-sharp passing style and fluid movement would give Foden that license to find gaps in the opponents defence further up the field – something that has been hard to come by for England at Euro 2020.
Jack Grealish was the man thrown on in Foden’s place as Raheem Sterling was switched over to the right flank to make room for the Aston Villa skipper on the left.
However, despite the persistent clamour for Grealish to be involved for the Three Lions from the outset, he was unable to make the desired impact against a dogged and determined Scotland side.
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All the while, Borussia Dortmund superstar Jadon Sancho was left sitting on the bench as he awaits his first taste of action at the tournament, but Rooney feels either player would be a more suitable selection than Foden in Southgate’s lineup.
“With England he [Foden] is a bit isolated out wide and when he receives the ball, the possession is slow and there is little happening around him,” Rooney added.
“That means he then has to dribble – and if you are playing in such a way that, from your wide players, dribbling is what is required, then why not play Grealish and Jadon Sancho, two of the best at doing it.”
Southgate has been reluctant to play Grealish despite him racking up successive Man of the Match awards in his previous three international performances leading into the tournament.
The England boss did offer a different reason for holding back Sancho, though, as he suggested he needed to protect the junior players in his squad.
“We’ve got some explosive options and a lot of them are young players and experiencing a big tournament for the first time,” Southgate said.
“So as a coaching staff we are realistic about our expectations of them as individuals.
“Jadon is in that mix. He’s trained well the last few days and of course we have got those options and those decisions to make.”