Having Wayne Rooney in the England squad for one last time will have benefited the other players, according to Gareth Southgate.
Gareth Southgate believes his England side will have learned the art of humility from Wayne Rooney’s involvement with the squad over the past week.
Rooney made a 35-minute cameo off the bench in the Three Lions’ comfortable 3-0 victory against the United States at Wembley on Thursday.
The decision to include record goalscorer Rooney for the 120th and final time in his international career caused debate among ex-professionals and pundits.
But England manager Southgate has no doubt having Rooney in camp will have only taught his players valuable lessons.
“We talk a lot about what playing for England means for us, respecting the shirt and what has come before. All the players did that this week. We gave Wayne the tribute he deserved,” he told Sky Sports.
“The young players will have taken heed of his humility, everything he’s done in the game. He’s mucked in with the group, trained the same as everyone else, wanted to be involved and win everything.
“In the game, he tracked back, he showed what a top player and top mentality he has.
“It’s a privilege for everybody for him to have been involved this week.”
— Harry Kane (@HKane) November 15, 2018
But Rooney was denied what would have been an extremely popular goal by visiting goalkeeper Brad Guzan in injury time.
Southgate added: ” It would have been nice if his shot had gone one yard either side of Guzan, that would have been a fairytale.
“The boys played him in a few times and [a goal] would have been perfect. You saw some moments of real quality.”
England will now switch focus to Sunday’s Nations League contest against Croatia.
A surprise 3-2 win for Croatia over Spain means it is a winner-takes-all contest at Wembley, with the victors reaching the final four of the competition.
It comes just four months after Croatia defeated England in the World Cup semi-finals and Southgate is excited by the challenge.
“It’s a brilliant game, it’s what the Nations League concept is all about,” he added.
“We’ve had some exciting games already and Sunday now becomes a really big game for everyone to look forward to.”
Southgate made eight changes to the side that defeated Spain 3-2 in the Nations League last time out and, while praising the impact several new faces made, he feels there is still room for improvement.
“I thought we were too open and a bit ill-disciplined,” he said. “Some young players went in and gave a really good account of themselves.
“I’m delighted for Callum Wilson, and a nice moment for Trent. So, there are positives to take, but a lot that could have been better.
“We’ve got really good competition for places, it was a good test for a lot of those players. We will have to be better without the ball, in particular. Some of the attacking play was really exciting.”