England manager Gareth Southgate said debutant Ruben Loftus-Cheek is “capable of anything” after his man-of-the-match performance against Germany at Wembley.
The 21-year-old Chelsea midfielder, on loan at Crystal Palace, was one of five players to make their debut as England held the world champions to a 0-0 draw.
“He’s got so many good attributes, top attributes, and that’s why we put him into the team,” Southgate said.
“We believe in him and believe in the others we played.”
With England lacking a number of first-team regulars, Loftus-Cheek, Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and Swansea’s on-loan Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham all earned a first cap from the start on Friday, while Liverpool defender Joe Gomez and midfielder Jack Cork of Burnley came off the bench.
“I’m really not surprised with what they’ve done because they’ve shown that previously in the younger ages, they’ve shown that this week in training,” Southgate said. “There’s been an energy about the group.”
Loftus-Cheek impressed in the midfield, demonstrating his strength and guile alongside captain Eric Dier of Tottenham and West Brom’s Jake Livermore.
“Despite his size, appearance and the way he plays, he’s not hugely confident at times and I think tonight it took him 10 minutes to have a look around him and think ‘all right, OK, I can do this’,” the England manager added.
Southgate, who also managed Loftus-Cheek with England’s Under-21s before taking over with the senior squad, told ITV: “He is capable of anything.”
Loftus-Cheek has made eight appearances for Palace this season after joining on loan in the summer.
“If we won it would have been better but I’m really happy,” the midfielder said. “It was a really tactical game. It was good for us young players and I certainly learned a lot.
“The manager has said do your best. I had Gareth in charge for nearly three years with the Under-21s and the boys have been great. I’ve settled in really well and they gave me a platform to go out and play.
“To go to the World Cup – it’s a long season and I still have to improve. I have to keep learning and getting better and hopefully there’s a chance to get on the plane.”
Analysis – ‘Loftus-Cheek gives Southgate a selection problem’
Former England midfielder Jermaine Jenas on BBC Radio 5 live:
If Gareth Southgate wanted a selection problem, he’s been given one by Loftus-Cheek. At the top end of the pitch he takes the ball on the turn and makes things happen. When he’s deep he looks like our most comfortable player on the ball. It was a really assured performance.
The only criticism I would have is that he looks like he has more. When you turn and get into attacking areas express yourself, try something and show you’re the man. But that will come. It was his debut today and it was a fantastic one.
The answer to a ‘creatively bankrupt’ midfield?
BBC chief football writer Phil McNulty:
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s performance was the talk of Wembley as the young midfielder, on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea, had an outstanding debut against World Cup holders Germany.
And the 21-year-old’s display will have been a hot topic for England manager Gareth Southgate after his central midfield looked creatively bankrupt when based on a pairing of Tottenham’s Eric Dier and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson in the final games of their successful World Cup qualifying campaign.
This area looked like a sterile weakness in England’s team but Loftus-Cheek, with strength, skill and a touch of arrogance, offered tantalising glimpses that he may be an option to cure that problem.
Tottenham’s Harry Winks, out injured for these England friendlies, has also shown real promise so Southgate might just be able to shake up a part of his team that appeared vulnerable only a few weeks ago.
This, along with an excellent debut from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, was the highlight of a night of positives for Southgate.
‘We did well but there will be harder tests’
It was an entertaining draw between England’s most inexperienced side since 1980 and the reigning world champions.
England struggled to contain Germany in the first half but grew in confidence as the game progressed and could have won it in added time when Jesse Lingard fired over.
It was the first goalless draw England have had at Wembley since October 2010, when they drew 0-0 with Montenegro under Fabio Capello, and was also the first stalemate between England and Germany since June 1982, when Ron Greenwood’s side drew against West Germany at the World Cup in Spain.
The Three Lions remain unbeaten at Wembley under Southgate, keeping five clean sheets in seven games.
“In the first half there were a couple of really goods saves from Jordan Pickford, we caused our own problems with a couple of those. But we posed our own questions and I thought we used the ball well,” said Southgate.
“There will be harder tests as the likes of Germany will have another gear to go to.”