‘Once he’s ruled out, it’s entirely up to him how he spends his time’: Gareth Southgate defends Marcus Rashford’s trip to New York after the in-form Manchester United forward pulled out of England duty through injury
- Gareth Southgate has leapt to the defence of Marcus Rashford’s USA trip
- The Man Utd man pulled out of the England squad then went on New York break
- Southgate states it’s up to Rashford how he spends his time away from England
Gareth Southgate has defended Marcus Rashford’s decision to fly to New York on holiday, despite pulling out of the England squad injured.
The Manchester United forward posted pictures on Instagram from the Big Apple on the same day England beat Italy in their Euro 2024 qualifier, one of which was captioned: ‘Downtime.’
Rashford has scored 19 goals since the World Cup but has now pulled out of five of the six non-tournament England squads.
Southgate said he had no issue with Rashford’s decision though and insisted it would not hamper his chances of selection in the future.
‘Once he’s ruled out of the squad, it’s entirely up to him how he spends his time,’ said Southgate on Saturday. ‘The players don’t get a lot of break. I’m sure our players will be flying off wherever after tomorrow’s game. If they get 48 hours with the schedule as it is, I think they have to take advantage of it.’
Gareth Southgate has no issue with how Marcus Rashford spends his time time outside of the England squad
Rashford was criticised for pulling out of the England squad and then heading to New York
The England striker has scored 19 times for Manchester United since the World Cup
It’s a change in tone to Southgate’s comments after the Italy game, when asked if Rashford was a ‘loss’ replied: ‘We haven’t often had him…when you haven’t had him that is different to it being a loss.’
Southgate claims that was just ‘semantics’. ‘He’s in good form,’ he said ahead of the qualifier against Ukraine on Sunday. ‘We’d love to have had him as an option for this camp but we haven’t. It’s opportunities for other people.
‘We always make a judgement on how people are playing and he’s obviously played a lot for us. He’s over 50 caps now for England and close to 50 of those have been since I’ve been the manager.
‘I’ve known him a long time, I know what he’s capable of. It’s good to see him in the goalscoring form he’s in. When he’s getting a chance, you’re expecting him to score.
‘There’s been a period in the last couple of years where he’s not been as hot as that and that’s been frustrating, but he is in good form and we hope that can continue.’
Rashford’s inconsistent availability may leave Southgate — or his successor — scratching his head when they look for a player to fill Harry Kane’s boots. He will be nearly 33 when the next World Cup begins.
One young star who England may miss out on is Arsenal forward Folarin Balogun.
The 21-year-old has scored 17 goals this season on loan at Reims and posted a cryptic message on Instagram as rumours swirl about a potential switch to the USA, writing: ‘In life go where your [sic] appreciated.’
Southgate admitted it is a ‘conundrum’ but urged Balogun to go with his heart when deciding his future.
England could miss out on Folarin Balogun who could pledge his allegiance to the USA
‘It is a classic thing we are facing at the moment,’ said Southgate. ‘Young players progress well and you cannot give them the immediate opportunity that they would like and another country perhaps can offer them. It is up to the player to weigh up where his heart feels. We cannot go and give first-team call-ups to someone just because we don’t want them to go elsewhere.
‘If you cannot give them the opportunity now, then some people are patient and want to see it through and are prepared to wait a bit and others want it now and I totally understand that.
‘Clearly other nations have been aggressive in their recruitment and what they are offering. We would like him to give it some time and if he is progressing the way he is there will be opportunities, but I cannot offer him that this week. I don’t think that would be fair on Ivan Toney, who has scored the goals he has in the Premier League.’
Reece James has withdrawn from the England squad for ‘assessment on an ongoing issue’, but Southgate revealed Jordan Henderson and Jude Bellingham were fit to face Ukraine.