Phil Foden is "the best footballer England have", according to former Three Lions captain Wayne Rooney, who suggests the Manchester City star must be played at the World Cup going forward.
The playmaker was an unused substitute during Friday's 0-0 draw with the United States, as Gareth Southgate's side missed the chance to seal top spot in Group B and progress to the knockout rounds.
Having been overlooked to start in both of their matches so far, Foden was forced to watch from the sidelines as his side laboured to a point, prompting criticism from former England players Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville.
Now Rooney, the Three Lions' all-time record goalscorer, has added his voice to the chorus of dissent over the 22-year-old's exclusion from a crucial encounter.
"I found it very strange that Foden did not come on as a substitute against the USA," he wrote in his column for The Times. "Technically, he is the best footballer England have.
"I think if you have a talent like Foden, you simply have to play him. He is now a different player from the one we saw at Euro 2020, when he struggled to make an impact.
"He is more mature and came into this tournament on the back of a long period of brilliant performances for Manchester City.
"He has the form to go with the ability. If I were him, I would be very frustrated that I didn't get on the pitch at any stage of Friday’s game."
52 - Phil Foden has scored 52 goals in his Manchester City career. In scoring his 50th in October, he became the youngest player to score a half-century of goals while playing under Pep Guardiola (22y 127d), with the previous record belonging to Lionel Messi. Wonder. #ThreeLions pic.twitter.com/stWO0Rbdkf— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 10, 2022
In a lacklustre performance without the energy and verve of their opening 6-2 win over Iran, England were kept out of danger at the back by another strong showing from Harry Maguire.
Manchester United's club captain has been mostly overlooked at club level this season, but Rooney was effusive in his praise for the centre-back, who recovered from illness to feature against the United States.
"[Maguire] was England's standout player on Friday," he added. "He had an excellent game against Iran.
"[He is] showing the quality on the ball, sound defending and unmistakable threat at set pieces. That makes him so important to the team."
England play their final Group B game against Wales on Tuesday, with Southgate's side looking to secure top spot ahead of the knockout rounds.