“For me personally, it’s the right decision,” Rooney told ESPN. “The result, in my opinion — I can say it now, I’m not (an England) player — the result was the best result for England.
“And maybe that’s been a problem we’ve had the last 15, 20 years as a country: we’re too honest. We sit there and say we want to win every game. This is England. This is how we should play.”
Southgate’s decision to change the side who beat Panama 6-1 was met with divided opinion in the British media.
“When all the other countries are plotting their way through, I’m sure Gareth would have liked to have kept the momentum going, but sometimes you need to take a step backward to go forward. I believe it was definitely the right decision,” Rooney said.
The 32-year-old, who completed his move to Major League Soccer (MLS) side DC United from Everton last week is England’s all-time leading scorer with 53 goals before his international retirement last year.
Southgate’s side face Colombia in the last 16 in Moscow on Tuesday.
Asked about England’s ambitions in the tournament, Rooney said: “I think we should be dreaming now.”