Updated: Wednesday, 20th November 2019 @ 5:06pm

Phil Jones backs 'composed' Rooney to shine as England skipper despite Norway snoozefest

Phil Jones backs 'composed' Rooney to shine as England skipper despite Norway snoozefest

| By David Cowlishaw

Phil Jones has backed Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney to shine as England captain, despite an unspectacular first game wearing the armband.

Rooney’s penalty gave The Three Lions a 1-0 win against Norway in front of a lowly Wembley attendance of just 40,181.

Despite the well-dispatched spot-kick, the new skipper and his team-mates were not firing on all cylinders against their resolute opponents.

 

However defender Jones, who played a full ninety minutes at centre-half, took heart from the encounter and tipped Rooney to flourish.

He said: “It is always important to bounce back after really disappointing times.

“It was a great exercise for us, they made it difficult for us. It was nice to get the win and overall it was a positive performance.

“I think we created quite a few chances, but just didn't stick them in the net.

“I am delighted for Wayne. He is always calm, composed and will make a great captain.”

The sparse crowd at the national stadium was to be expected after an abysmal World Cup campaign from Roy Hodgson’s men.

Television viewers were uninterested too, the friendly averaging almost four million fewer viewers than the Great British Bake-Off.

England apathy even extended to Twitter, with the hashtag 'ThingsBetterThanBeingAtWembleyRightNow’ a trending topic.

 

The manager earmarked his team’s opponents as a key factor behind the poor attendance.

Hodgson said: “I think you’ll find we’ll find it hard to bring attendances back to very high level because of the opponents we’re playing, they won’t be exciting the public.

“They’re not the teams that normally attract full houses.

“But if the team works as hard as they did against Norway, show the appetite and desire, and the aggression in the defending, show the exciting moves that were there for all to see, the crowd aren’t foolish. They know what they’re seeing."

The 67-year-old did not react well to suggestions his team didn't do enough to test the Norway goalkeeper.

When it was put to him that Rooney’s goal was one of two shots on target, he retorted: "Don't give me that one. Two shots on target? What about all the ones they threw themselves in front of.

"Don't hit me with statistics. When we had that much possession and you talk about two shots on target?

"We're not scoring a lot of goals, but we're not playing against teams who come out against us a lot. This team will score goals.”

Those who did make it to Wembley saw Rooney have an unimpressive first game as national team captain, despite his telling contribution from the spot.

He was guilty of being too over-eager, as evidenced by a particularly wayward pass to John Stones in the second half that threatened to wake up a dozing spectator.

It was a better night for his new Man United cohort Angel Di Maria, who set-up three goals and scored a delightful chip in Argentina’s friendly against Germany.

Unlike in July’s World Cup final against the same opponents, Di Maria was instrumental in an impressive 4-2 victory and United fans will be hoping it’s a sign of things to come.

England meanwhile, play in Switzerland on Monday night in what will be the toughest game of their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Hodgson’s words will not be particularly inspiring to fans as the England boss takes on the country he used to manage.

He said: “Switzerland will need to beat us, if anything, we might be Norway on Monday.

“We might be pushed back and can't attack and dominate for long periods, as we did today. I don't know.

“I don't think the mind-set of the Swiss team, playing us in Basel, will be the same as the mind-set of the Norwegians.”

Main image courtesy of The FA via YouTube, with thanks.