Rooney applauds England for capturing fans' imagination

Now at MLS side DC United, Wayne Rooney was an impressed onlooker as England reached the World Cup semifinals.

DC United forward Wayne Rooney.   -  Getty Images

Former England captain Wayne Rooney has praised Gareth Southgate's young team for delivering hope to the nation's long-suffering fans.

Amid little expectation in Russia, manager Southgate steered an inexperienced side to fourth place, its best World Cup finish in 28 years.

The performance surpassed that achieved throughout Rooney's 13-year international career, which was often marked by a tense relationship with supporters.

The former Manchester United and Everton man famously criticised England's travelling fans for booing the team after a 0-0 draw with Algeria at the 2010 World Cup, but believes 2018 has set the scene for a bright future.

"I think it was a great tournament for all the players, for Gareth Southgate, and a great tournament for England as a country, and for the fans," Rooney told reporters.

"I said two years ago this team is an exciting team with a lot of talent. Let's get behind them, support them.

"I think the English fans have done that and the players have given them a great performance in the tournament.

"It's a shame we didn't get to the final where anything can happen. But I think all the players can be proud, the manager and his staff can be proud. Hopefully they kick on from there in the next tournament."

Rooney was speaking after an encouraging first appearance in MLS, which saw DC beat Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1.

The 32-year-old stepped off the bench in the 58th minute to deliver an assist for the second of Paul Arriola's brace.

"It was a great victory. I thought we played some fantastic football," he said. "It was a big night for the club opening the [new Audi Field] stadium and it was important to get the win.

"It has been easy [to adjust]. I'm enjoying it. It was a great atmosphere. People in the city have given me a lot of freedom to be me, which hasn't always been the case."

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