England players were left “shocked” after some of the Wembley crowd jeered captain Wayne Rooney during the team’s 2-0 win over Malta on Saturday.
Rooney, who has scored one goal in 12 games for club and country this season, was barracked by a small section of the 81,000 fans as he played in midfield.
“I thought Wayne was brilliant. He has been every time he has played for England,” said defender John Stones.
Midfielder Jordan Henderson said Rooney “put in a fantastic performance”.
Rooney’s position in the team has been called into question given the emergence of the likes of Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge and Dele Alli in attack, along with the fact he has been a substitute in Manchester United’s past three games.
But England’s interim manager Gareth Southgate defended the 30-year-old after his side’s second World Cup qualifier, saying the criticism was “at times unfair”.
Manchester City defender Stones believes England’s record goalscorer is a victim of his own high standards, after scoring 53 goals in 117 appearances for his country.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve and gives 110% and you can see that in every performance,” said Stones, 22. “I am a bit shocked that the booing happened.
“He is always up there and on form. The top players are always going to get the stick that gets piled on them because of the standards he sets.”
Liverpool midfielder Henderson added: “He’s our captain and our leader and is a fantastic player for both Manchester United and England. He put in a fantastic performance, got on the ball well and broke it up too to win it back for us.
“There’s always going to be criticism and we just have to stay together and win games.
“I feel the criticism comes because the fans know we have good players and want us to do well.”
Despite being deployed in a deeper role, Rooney had five shots, the joint-highest total in the team alongside Sturridge, who scored the opening goal.
However, he has scored only once in his past seven internationals.
But Henderson explained the team had a plan to execute, and Rooney played a clear role in that.
“Our instructions were to make sure we communicated and to make sure that both of us didn’t get ahead of the ball and leave gaps in the middle,” he said.
“We had to make sure one of us was always protecting and one of us was getting forward. I felt we got that balance right a lot of the time.”
England play Slovenia away on Tuesday.
- Read more: ‘Rooney is increasingly being shoe-horned into England’s plans rather than acting as a fulcrum for a manager’s policy.’
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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/37603224