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The door remains open for Rashford and Sancho, says England boss Southgate

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(Image credit: Mike Egerton)

England manager Gareth Southgate left the door open for returns for Manchester United duo Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford after they were left out of his latest squad.

The pair seemingly paid the price for United’s poor run of form, despite Sancho’s personal performances showing a marked improvement in recent weeks.

Along with Manchester City right-back Kyle Walker, the three players were conspicuous by their absence from Southgate’s 25-man squad for the upcoming Wembley friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast.

Rashford has been struggling of late and issued a statement on social media after an altercation with United fans following the 1-0 Champions League defeat to Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night.

“He’s in the same position as everybody else,” Southgate said when asked whether Rashford has a lot to prove.

“Whether they’re in the squad or not in the squad, they’ve all got to play well over the end of this season and particularly the beginning of next season.

“It’s a difficult time for him, he’s clearly not at his best. We know a lot about Marcus anyway and what he can bring to us. And hopefully he rediscovers that form that we know he’s capable of.”

Both Rashford and Sancho missed from the spot in the penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final last summer.

Sancho has just started reaching the sort of levels which prompted United to spend £73million on the forward but has also been overlooked by Southgate this time around.

“The other attacking players in the squad are slightly ahead of him at the moment,” explained the Three Lions boss.

“You can see the names – (Phil) Foden, (Raheem) Sterling, (Bukayo) Saka, (Emile) Smith Rowe.

“If you look at the seasons they’ve had, Jadon, over the last few weeks his performances have without doubt improved at Manchester United but it’s an area of the field where we’ve got really big competition for places and at the moment we’ve got those guys slightly ahead.”

Gareth Southgate File Photo

Gareth Southgate has also omitted Kyle Walker (PA).

Southgate revealed he had spoken with Walker before naming the squad, saying he wants to take a look at Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James in the next week or so – but that the 31-year-old would return for the Nations League fixtures at the end of the season.

“With Kyle, I had a long chat with him,” he said. “We felt this is an opportunity to look at the two younger full-backs. We know all there is to know about Kyle, he’ll be back with us in June.

“We’re very happy with what he’s done, he’s an important part of the progress we’ve made as a team and you can see in the biggest matches for Man City this year he’s still been such a key player for them.

“But these young full-backs are exciting, we need to given them opportunities as well.

“There was a little bit of doubt over a couple and we’ve got big games to get though over the weekend. This squad could change a bit, but as it stands we felt it was a good opportunity for Trent and Reece.”

While Rashford and Sancho missed out, there was still a place in the squad for United captain Harry Maguire.

San Marino v England – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group I – San Marino Stadium

Harry Maguire keeps his place (PA)

The centre-back has faced stinging criticism for his performances this season but Southgate remains a staunch advocate of Maguire’s ability.

“I don’t think it ever crossed their mind not to select Harry Maguire for this squad,” he said.

“He’s been a key part of the starting XI that got us to a World Cup semi-final and a European Championship final.

“So I know the club are going through a difficult period but you’ve got to look at who are our best players in the core of the team and he’s in that group.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s one of our best centre-backs and form, in that sense, is temporary.

“In our forward areas, there’s perhaps a lot more competition for some of those wide places. So I will always be accused of double standards on picking on form but there are nuances to that.”

Arsenal v Brentford – Premier League – Emirates Stadium

Ben White has been in good form for Arsenal (PA)

Maguire is joined in the squad by regular centre-back selections Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings, while Ben White has been recalled for the first time since the Euros following a fine campaign so far with Arsenal.

There was also a maiden senior call-up for Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi.
The former Chelsea youngster captained Lee Carsley’s Under-21 side during the last international break but has now made the breakthrough to Southgate’s ranks.

“With Marc he has had a really consistent season, I have been really impressed on and off the ball,” added Southgate.

“In the biggest games he has been really calm, we know a lot about him from the junior teams. There are some centre-halves who are pushing and very close but we have chosen Marc and Ben White.”

Nick Pope returned in place of Sam Johnstone as one of three goalkeepers along with Aaron Ramsdale and Jordan Pickford as Southgate said he will look at different goalkeepers across the two friendlies.

Declan Rice and James Ward-Prowse also earned recalls as injuries ruled out Ben Chilwell and Kalvin Phillips, with Luke Shaw the only recognised left-back included.

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