Man United’s Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho axed by Southgate

Gareth Southgate said Marcus Rashford is “clearly not at his best” after dropping the Manchester United forward from his latest England squad but said there is “plenty of time” to regain his place ahead of the World Cup finals.

Rashford and United teammate Jadon Sancho were the high-profile omissions from Southgate’s 25-man group named on Thursday for friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast later this month.

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The 24-year-old has scored just twice since Oct. 30 amid speculation over his future at Old Trafford as he struggles to hold down a starting spot under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

And with the finals in Qatar just eight months away, Southgate said of Rashford: “He’s in the same position as everybody else, whether they are in the squad or they’re not, they’ve all got to play well over the next period towards the end of this season and in particular the beginning of next season.

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

After being left out of England’s previous squad in November, Sancho’s continuing absence is something of a surprise given a recent upturn in form for United but Southgate instead chose to call up Arsenal duo Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka among others.

“With the other attacking players in the squad, they are slightly ahead of him [Sancho] in the moment in our feeling,” Southgate said.

“You can see the names there: Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Jack Grealish — if you look at the seasons they’ve had… without a doubt, Jadon over the last few weeks, his performances have improved with Manchester United but it is an area of the field where we have got really big competition for places and at the moment, we’ve got those guys slightly ahead.”

Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi earned his first call-up while club teammate Conor Gallagher, Arsenal’s Ben White, Roma striker Tammy Abraham and Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope were included.

Southgate chose to leave out Manchester City‘s Kyle Walker after explaining to the 31-year-old that he wanted to use these two games to assess Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James.

“With Kyle, I had a long chat with him,” Southgate said. “We felt this was 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 for the games in June. We’re very happy with what he’s done. He’s a very important part of the progress we have made as a team and you can see in the biggest matches with Manchester City this year, he has still been such a key player for them.

“But these young full-backs are exciting, we need to give them their opportunities as well. There is a little bit of a doubt over a couple. We’ve got big games still to get through across this weekend. This squad could change a little bit. But as we stand, we thought it was a good opportunity for Trent and for Reece.”

Southgate chose to keep faith with Harry Maguire despite an indifferent spell at United, including sections of the club’s support cheering his substiution during Tuesday’s Champions League round-of-16 exit to Atletico Madrid.

“I don’t think it ever crossed our minds not to select Harry Maguire for this squad,” Southgate said. “He’s been a key part of the starting XI that got us to a World Cup semifinal and European Championship final.

“I know the club are going through a difficult period but you’ve got to look at who are our best players and the core of the team, and he is in that group. There’s no doubt in my mind he is one of our best centre-backs. Form in that sense is temporary.

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

“We’re not picking 100m finalists here where the fastest time wins and its all very clear. There is a more difficult path in selecting a football team and a squad.

“Harry is now on over 40 caps, a consistently strong performer for us, was through the autumn period for us and hopefully he can continue that vein of form that he’s had for such a long period of time.”

Full England squad

Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Coady (Wolves), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Ben White (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Declan Rice (West Ham), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)

Forwards: Tammy Abraham (AS Roma), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

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