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Southgate hails influence of demoted Rooney

Interim England manager Gareth Southgate maintains Wayne Rooney's status as national team captain is not under threat.

Rooney was been dropped from the Manchester United first-team by Jose Mourinho following poor early season form and he lost his England starting place for the second match of Southgate's tenure – a 0-0 World Cup qualifying draw in Slovenia.

Nevertheless, the former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender was impressed by the forward's leadership qualities, which are something he is seemingly not ready to remove from a youthful squad ahead of next month's games against Scotland and Spain at Wembley.

"He's the England captain and although he didn't start in Slovenia, to me he is a hugely influential person in that group and that won't change," Southgate said, as quoted by the Guardian.

"Let’s see what that scenario is but I thought his leadership qualities in the 10 days with us shone through. I hadn't been able to see that first hand and it was hugely impressive.

"I could see how he’s held in the eyes of the rest of the players and the positive influence he has in that environment. If that wasn’t the case I wouldn’t say those things. That’s as it was.

"I haven't spoken to him since the camp but I'm always conscious players are back into a run of fixtures with their clubs, but I will pick up with him and the others later."

Rooney's club colleague Marcus Rashford won a recall to the England senior squad in Southgate's maiden squad but the manager hinted he is prepared to go against Mourinho's stated wishes and push for striker – who turns 19 on Monday – to be included in the Three Lions' European Under-21 Championship next year.

"It's always a case of what’s right for the individual player," he said. "That's why you can’t make decisions on players at this stage of the season.

"You have an idea what you think is the ideal pathway for an international young player but you have to bear in mind the season they have and where they are in terms of being involved in the senior team.

"It's a scenario we went through two years ago but there is a point where young players are still viewed as being part of the development teams.

"There's also a point where we have to decide if they are still in development teams and is that going to benefit them or have they moved through it? As we have seen in the last couple of months Marcus is between the two."

Southgate, though, was keen to play down any notion of being in conflict with the Manchester United boss, who stated Rashford's return to the Under-21 fold would make "no sense" if he has become a regular at full-international level.

"We have to wait and see what it looks like as we move forward," he added. "Everything I have seen Jose say is perfectly reasonable."

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