London, United Kingdom | AFP | Wayne Rooney believes the future is bright for England as a youthful Three Lions eased past the United States 3-0 at Wembley on his international swansong on Thursday.
Jesse Lingard, Trent Alexander-Arnold and debutant Callum Wilson grabbed the goals in a dominant England display despite Gareth Southgate fielding a very inexperienced side.
Should England avenge their heartbreaking World Cup semi-final defeat by Croatia on Sunday at Wembley, Southgate’s men can build on the progress made by surpassing expectations in Russia this summer by qualifying for the semi-finals of the inaugural Nations League.
“It’s my opinion that England are in very safe hands from what I’ve seen this week,” said Rooney.
“The way they are being coached is brilliant, it’s a great group of young players who have a bright future.
“They will go close to being the next team to bring a trophy back for England.”
The decision to honour Rooney with a first cap for two years divided opinion.
However, the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the introduction of England’s greatest ever goalscorer just before the hour mark on his 120th international appearance.
“It will live with me for a long time,” added Rooney.
“It is something which created debate because it was the first time something like this happened, but it is the right thing to do for the players if you achieve and leave your mark on the England team.”
England’s former captain was also honoured before kick-off with a guard of honour and the presentation of a plaque bearing a golden Three Lions badge by current skipper Harry Kane.
“I asked Harry Kane to present me with the award because I believe he will beat my goalscoring record and I look forward to presenting him with the trophy,” added Rooney.
Kane didn’t get the chance to add to his 19 international goals as Southgate prioritised keeping most of his key players fresh for Croatia’s visit on Sunday.
“It has been a brilliant year no matter what happens on Sunday. We’ve had real shoots of progress and achieved some outstanding results,” said Southgate.
“But everybody wants to get to a semi-final out of a very tough group so it would be a really big step forward.”
As Rooney and Kane watched on from the bench for the first 45 minutes, Wilson was handed his chance to impress on his international debut, while Jadon Sancho was given his first start.
England quickly put the game to bed with two goals in as many minutes midway through the first half as firstly Lingard received Dele Alli’s pass before curling high into the far corner.
Sancho has quickly made a name for himself at Borussia Dortmund and the 18-year-old built on his fine Bundesliga form by teeing up Alexander-Arnold to drill his first international goal into the far corner.
As planned, Rooney got the chance to add to his 53 international goals and was handed the captain’s armband one last time when he entered on 58 minutes.
He didn’t get the fairytale ending as Brad Guzan made a fine save to the crowd’s dismay in stoppage time.
However, Wilson did get his goal to cap a dream debut for the Bournemouth striker, who has battled through the lower leagues and two cruciate ligament injuries in both knees to make it to the international stage.
Wilson got ahead of his marker to turn Fabian Delph’s cross in at the near post 13 minutes from time.
— England (@England) November 15, 2018