Manager Gareth Southgate saw “a glimpse of the future” as England celebrated Wayne Rooney’s final international appearance with a comfortable friendly win over the United States at Wembley.
Southgate gave debuts to three players and they all impressed, with Bournemouth forward Callum Wilson’s goal capping an industrious performance up front.
Brighton defender Lewis Dunk and Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, a second-half substitute, were barely tested but both were solid on their first appearances, while Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho played the full game as he won his second cap.
Rooney, winning his 120th cap in a fund-raiser for his charitable foundation, made a 33-minute appearance on a night England showed their appreciation for their 33-year-old record goalscorer.
But it was the players at the start of their international careers who stole the show, as Southgate fielded England’s most inexperienced starting XI in nearly 40 years.
The team that began the game had only 94 caps between them coming into the match – the last time England fielded a more inexperienced side was in May 1980 against Australia.
“We wanted to use this game to look at young players,” he told BBC Radio 5 live. “We had a glimpse of the future, and were able to get Wayne on to show some wonderful touches.
“We had a really inexperienced team out there, so they’ve come through and learned a lot, and we’ve paid our respects to one of our greatest ever players.
“Some of our attacking play in the first half-hour in particular was really exciting.”
The young side were 2-0 up by the time Rooney was finally introduced – Jesse Lingard opening the scoring with a spectacular curling effort, and Trent Alexander-Arnold adding a low, angled drive for his first international goal.
If it was a memorable night for Rooney, who was denied a dream goal by Brad Guzan’s stoppage-time save, it was the same for the hard-working Wilson when he produced a near-post finish 13 minutes from time.
It set England up nicely for Sunday’s Uefa Nations League game with Croatia at Wembley, which takes on great importance after the World Cup finalists’ 3-2 victory over Spain in Zagreb.
If England win they will finish top of Group A4 and qualify for next June’s semi-final and final. If they lose, they will be relegated.