Gareth Southgate has told Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford that they need to improve their own form if they are to return to the England squad before the World Cup later this year.
The Manchester United forwards have both been left out of the squad for a Wembley double header this month and Southgate said recent performances were why they weren’t included.
Rashford has had a difficult time for United recently and is considering his future at Old Trafford, but Sancho has been in good form for his club and is a surprise omission from the Three Lions squad for games against Switzerland on Saturday, March 26 (5.30pm ) and Ivory Coast on Tuesday, March 29 (7.45pm).
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But Southgate believes the attacking players picked in his squad for these friendlies are enjoying a more consistent season than Sancho, despite his recent return to form.
“The other attacking players in the squad are slightly ahead of him in our feeling,” Southgate said after confirming his squad.
“You can see the names there, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Jack Grealish. Jadon over the last few weeks his performances have improved but it’s an area of the field we’ve got big competition for places. “
Rashford was widely expected to miss out on the squad having endured an awful run of form for his club. He took to social media on Wednesday to explain a confrontation with a fan outside Old Trafford after United were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid earlier this week.
Southgate has challenged the 24-year-old to find his best form again before the World Cup in Qatar to make sure of his place in the squad.
“He’s in the same position as everybody else, whether they’re in the squad or not they have to play well towards the end of this season and in particular the beginning of next,” he said.
“It’s a difficult time for him, he’s clearly not at his best, but we know a lot about Marcus and hopefully he can rediscover the form we know he’s capable of.”
Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw are the only United players in the squad and Southgate confirmed he never considered axing Maguire despite his own struggles for club form recently.
“I don’t think it ever crossed our minds not to select Harry Maguire for this squad, he’s been a key part of the starting XI that got us a World Cup semi-final and a European Championship final,” he said.
“The club are going through a difficult period, [but] you have to look at our best players and he’s in that group, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s one of our best center backs.
“I’ll always be accused of double standards of picking on form but there’s nuances to that, there’s a more difficult path on selecting a squad.
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“Harry now has over 40 caps, a consistently strong performer for us, was through the autumn period as well, hopefully, he can continue that vein of form for us that he’s had for such a long period of time.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.