Wayne Rooney feels he got "slaughtered" for his display in last month's win in Slovakia after former England boss Sam Allardyce stated that his captain "played wherever he wanted". The 30-year-old, who has played mainly as a forward, operated in a deeper role for much of the 1-0 win in Trnava. Rooney revealed that Allardyce, who lost his job last week, admitted to him that his comments had been a mistake. "I played exactly to instructions. I didn't come in and say, 'I want to play here or there'. That was a big misunderstanding that I seemed to get slaughtered for," said the Manchester United player.
England's leading all-time goalscorer, 30, continued: "I got battered in many different ways for my performance, which I felt was actually a decent performance. He knew he had made a mistake. He said that to me on the plane home. That's part of being involved at this level. He understood that quite early and unfortunately he doesn't have the chance to rectify that now." England won their opening qualifier for the 2018 World Cup thanks to an injury-time winner from Adam Lallana.
Allardyce left his post as England manager by mutual agreement with the Football Association last week after only one match and 67 days in charge. It followed a newspaper investigation claiming he offered advice on how to "get around" rules on player transfers. "It's a shame. Everyone could see how excited Sam was for the job and he came in and showed that enthusiasm to the players. It's a shame it's happened and I'm sure he deeply regrets it. It was a decision for the Football Association to take. As a group of players we need to stick together and concentrate on the football. For the FA, I'm sure it has been a tough couple of weeks but, for the players, we've been with our clubs and we have to focus on the games," said Rooney.
When Allardyce's interim successor Gareth Southgate was questioned about the football corruption investigation that led to Allardyce's departure, he said he was "involved in a sport I love and an industry that, at times, I don't like". Southgate vacated his role as Under-21s boss to take temporary charge of the senior team following Allardyce's departure. The 46-year-old will lead the country for the next four matches, the first of which is against Malta at Wembley on Saturday. "It is an opportunity to show what he can do at senior level. He has worked with a lot of the players at under-21 level, which will be good for them. He will bring his own way of working so it will be good to see how that is in the next week. We have to buy into his ways and take his ideas on board and put them on the pitch ," said Rooney.
Rooney told BBC Sport: "As a football player, I love football, but there are some things that don't belong in it. As a kid growing up, you just want to play football. You don't realise all the things around it. In every sport there are other sides, which sometimes aren't the best for the sport to progress." On Monday, Southgate confirmed that Rooney will remain as captain, describing the Manchester United forward as "the outstanding leader in the group". Rooney said: "With Sam, there was a lot of talk over whether I would be captain. It was good Gareth put that to bed early and there was no unnecessary speculation." Rooney, England's leading all-time goalscorer with 53 goals, has recently lost his place in the Manchester United starting XI and his place in the England side has been under scrutiny since their failure at Euro 2016, where he played in midfield.
Asked where he thought he would play for England under Southgate, Rooney said: "It is getting tiring, that question. I have answered it many times. It is the same answer. I will play where the manager wants me to play. I have never picked myself." Rooney was also criticised for his display in the 1-0 win over Slovakia in the World Cup qualifier in September, Allardyce's only game in charge. "I actually thought I'd done quite well, especially in the second half. It has all been blown up," said Rooney.
Asked after that game why his captain kept dropping deep, Allardyce said: "Wayne played wherever he wanted to." But Rooney said on Tuesday: "It couldn't be further from the truth. I play to instructions. I suffered from that, but I thought Sam's change in putting Dele (Alli) on allowed us to win the game, with me and Eric (Dier) controlling it and winning the second balls, getting balls into dangerous areas. He knew he had made a mistake. That's part of being involved at this level. He understood that quite early and unfortunately he doesn't have the chance to rectify that now."
Gary Cahill is expected to start in the centre of defence against Malta. The 30-year-old has made some high-profile mistakes for Chelsea in recent weeks, including against Swansea when he allowed Leroy Fer to rob him of possession and score the equaliser. "For me, up to Swansea my form was good, I was playing well and I was happy," Cahill told BBC Sport.