England news: Gareth Southgate says Marcus Rashford decision was all his… not Mourinho’s

31 May

England manager Gareth Southgate says Jose Mourinho had no influence on the decision to pull Marcus Rashford from the Under-21 European Championship, and is ready to deal with ‘collisions’¬†between club and country.

Southgate was originally enthusiastic about sending the Manchester United teenager to gain tournament experience in Poland this summer, a course of action that directly contradicted Mourinho’s thinking, but changed his mind as Rashford’s role expanded over the course of the season.

Having enjoyed more starts and first-team minutes in the second half of the campaign, including leading the line in the Europa League final win over Ajax, the 19-year-old’s form persuaded Southgate he should be treated as a bona fide member of the senior group.

And while that will be welcomed in the manager’s office at Old Trafford, Southgate stressed there was no horse-trading or bartering over the decision and suggested an accord with Mourinho was not a prime motivation.

“The key for us is not the relationship with Jose, it’s the relationship with Marcus,” he said.

“I didn’t speak to him (Mourinho) about it. I let him know where I was heading with it at the end. I am not in a position where I can make decisions to keep people happy. If I am trying to keep Jose happy that’s going to be, let’s say fairly difficult.

“So I have got to make decisions that are right for England seniors long term, I’m always mindful of what is right for the players. Respectfully, none of the managers are going to be around in 10 years, or it’s very, very unlikely, and I think people like Marcus Rashford will be.

“We want a good working relationship with the clubs, of course we do, but they have got their own objectives and have got to make decisions that are right for them, and I have got to make decisions that are right for England. So there’s always going to be some collision at some point on that and some disagreement on that.”

Southgate briefly toyed with the idea of asking Rashford to pull double duty, in the forthcoming games against Scotland and France and then as part of the under-21s, but determined that was both the easy decision and the wrong one.

He was in charge of the under-21s two years ago when Tottenham’s Harry Kane took part in the same tournament in the Czech Republic, despite his burgeoning reputation as a Premier League goalscorer and full international.

England and Kane were both well under-par in the end and those memories were at the fore in his latest verdict.

“I sensed at the time we went with that route for the right reasons, because we wanted to take as many of our best players as possible, but I didn’t think with Harry we got it right,” he said.

“You’ve got to use those experiences when you’re forming those decisions. We’re very serious about development tournaments, but whenever we’re dealing with young players we’ve also got to be serious about their own personal development as well….making sure he senses that we’re not just plonking him somewhere to try to achieve an objective that ticks a box for us.”

The amount of focus afforded to the striker, who is comfortably the youngest player in Southgate’s squad, speaks of a player with a big future in the game. His manager sees a humble, eager and engaged individual ready to thrive at the top – not to mention one with an FA Cup, EFL Cup and Europa League titles already under his belt.

“Rashford has won more than I won already, which is f***ing depressing!,” noted Southgate, with a chuckle and an unusually colourful verbal flourish.

“He is a lad who, whatever you asked him to do, he would do. He’s very clear about that. He’s proud to play for England, he’s a player who respects the decisions of coaches. What I like most of all is the humility and the mentality.

“He thinks deeply about the game. He’s got good tactical understanding. What I always find with the young players who come through at United, they’re bred to play in front of 70,000 people every week. That’s part of the mentality of the youth system there.”

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