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Should Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford go to the U21 Euros with England?

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Life is tough for prodigious English talents.

As soon as any teen makes any sort of impact at club level, especially for a top side, every man and his dog has an opinion on how best to harness their talent, how to make sure they fulfill their potential and lead England out of the international mire.

The latest name to deal with this kind of attention is Marcus Rashford. He broke through at Manchester United by chance – Louis van Gaal had a striker crisis and when Anthony Martial was injured in the warm-up against Nordsjaelland, Rashford took his place to score twice. Two days later he followed this up with another brace against Arsenal. This was a year ago, and ever since, the attention has been on how club and country can best utilise his obvious talent.

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And it’s proving tough. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic the undisputed main man at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho, Rashford has been shunted out wide onto the left of midfield. The same happened for England against Lithuania. He came off the bench to go and stand on the left rather than through the middle. The result? Seven goals in 42 appearances for club and country this season.

So why are things proving so difficult for Rashford? And what should be done to get him back in form and moving in the right direction again?

For a start, he needs minutes up front. The reason the 19-year-old was so successful when he was thrust into Premier League and Europa League action for the first time last season was because he was playing through the middle. He was successful here because his primary skill as an individual is an uncanny ability to get himself right in front of the goal and kick the ball into it. It may seem like an obvious part of any strikers game, but the fact is, very few forwards have such a talent for being in the right place at the right time.

The problem, therefore, lies in minutes. Rashford is not going to displace Zlatan Ibrahimovic from the starting XI at Manchester United and he is unlikely to get the nod to start in front of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy or the resurgent Jermain Defoe for England.

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So the solution is simple. Rashford must go to the U21 Euros with England this summer.

For so long, England have thrust their brightest talents in to the national team at an early stage in their career, bringing them into an environment which has a history of pressure and failure, with no real cohesion or progression up the youth football ladder.

Under Gareth Southgate, that looks like it will change. In the most recent international break, Michael Keane, James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond, all products of Southgate’s U21 side, made their debuts. Redmond and Ward-Prowse, despite their progression to full national honours, will go to Poland this summer and gain tournament experience with their national team.

Just because Rashford has eight England caps and is tipped for greater things than the playing against youngsters from Slovakia, Poland and Sweden, doesn’t mean it won’t be crucial for his footballing education. He will experience a less pressure, friendlier tournament environment, while getting vital game time playing through the middle.

Although Jose Mourinho would protest and say his young striker would need rest, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. For a start, Rashford has started just 11 Premier League games this season, which is hardly likely to see him burn out, but also, the tournament contains 12 teams and will see the winners play five games. A 19-year-old can play five games in a summer with no problems whatsoever.

If things are to improve for England under Gareth Southgate – and there are already some tentative signs that they might – there needs to be more flexibility between the age groups in the national team set-up. Marcus Rashford needs to play up front, he needs tournament experience and England need to do something different to avoid the repeated abject failure as the last 20 years have exclusively produced.

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek deserves England start after Tunisia cameo

The 22-year-old proved the catalyst for England in his second-half cameo.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

England managed to get their World Cup campaign off to the perfect start with a win over Tunisia.

It wasn’t straightforward and they had to wait until stoppage time, but Harry Kane popped up at the crucial time to deliver three points.

Their next match is against Panama on Sunday and a win will almost certainly be enough to see them through to the next round.

Germany’s loss against Mexico means that it may be beneficial for the Three Lions to finish second in their group, but Gareth Southgate will be focused on qualifying first and foremost.

The performance from England was a refreshing one as the players looked to play in a positive manner and were confident in their ability to play out from the back.

There were some sketchy moments, but mistakes are part of the process and there is now real hope for a better future.

Southgate has put his faith in a lot of younger players and one made an impact on Monday.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek was a surprise selection, but the midfielder was brought on against Tunisia and he had a positive impact.

(Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

England looked like they were tiring and it was important that Southgate made the necessary changes to get a win.

It was a risk to bring on the 22-year-old considering his lack of experience, but he provided dynamism in the centre of the park when it was required.

During his short time on the pitch, he looked to be aggressive in his movement and managed to break free in the final third on a couple of occasions.

He completed one dribble and won his only aerial duel. Loftus-Cheek had a breakthrough season with Crystal Palace and he could emerge as one of the breakout stars of the competition if he continues to play in a positive manner.

At times, England looked lightweight and lacking ideas in the middle of the park.

Dele Alli was a shadow of his usual self and appeared to be carrying a knock. He managed to produce one key pass, but his influence was limited.

Meanwhile, Jesse Lingard offered threatening movement, but his final ball was poor. He had a number of chances in the final third and none of them resulted in a goal.

Although he was only on the pitch for roughly ten minutes, Loftus-Cheek provided athleticism and drive that the team were previously lacking.

All of his contributions were made with the right intentions and he seemed to grow on the world stage.

It would have been easy for the midfielder to come on and play it safe. He didn’t do that and Southgate would have been encouraged by that.

Panama is a game that England should be targeting for three points. Southgate saw that his chosen formation worked against Tunisia, but there could be a change of players that makes it more effective.

Loftus-Cheek has to be one of the players lined up for a start for either Lingard or Alli. There is an opportunity for experimentation and if the 22-year-old can deliver over ninety minutes, it could be a sign of what is to come this summer.

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Three things learnt from England’s World Cup victory against Tunisia

They left it late, but The Three Lions grabbed a deserved opening game victory.

Martyn Cooke

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England kicked off their World Cup campaign with a victory against Tunisia on Monday evening and gave their chances of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the tournament a significant boost.

However, it was far from straightforward and it took a last-gasp injury time goal from Harry Kane to secure the three points.

Here, The Boot Room highlights three things that we learnt from England vs Tunisia.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Harry Kane is key to England’s prospects

We have often seen England players struggled to perform at major international tournaments, but Harry Kane quickly squashed any doubts over whether he would be able to transfer his domestic goal scoring form onto the international stage.

The Tottenham Hotspur forward scored 41 goals for his club this season and he further underlined the claim that he is one of the best striker’s in Europe with two crucial strikes on Monday evening. Neither were particularly impressive, both were close range finishes, but his knack of being in the right place at the right time was ultimately the difference on the night.

It is easy to forget that Kane is only 24-years-old and is one of the youngest captains at the World Cup, yet he showed no signs of feeling the pressure and his clinical instincts in front of goal will be key if England are to progress to the latter stages of the tournament.

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Need to be more clinical in front of goal

In many respects, Harry Kane’s injury-time winner has meant that the attention has been directed away by how wasteful England were in front of goal during the opening period.

Whilst the team produced an impressive first half display, a number of individual players were guilty of missing a host of guilt-edged chances. Dele Alli saw his header deflected onto the bar whilst Jesse Lingard failed to convert two clear-cut chances, one clipping the post whilst the other was fired too close to the Tunisian goalkeeper.

In truth, England could have been out of sight by half time and Tunisia were fortunate to reach the half time interval on level terms.

However, if Gareth Southgate’s side are to progress to the latter stages of the World Cup then they can ill afford to be as wasteful in front of goal as they were on Monday, especially when they come up against better opposition.

(Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Impact substitutes

Midway through the second half with the game tied at one goal apiece Gareth Southgate would have undoubtedly glanced back at the England substitutes gathered on the bench as he considered how to change the game.

The good news is that the squad has good strength in depth, particularly in forward areas, and there are certainly plenty of players that have the capacity to make an impact when coming off the bench.

On Monday evening Southgate opted to place his faith in Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Both came on and made a significant impact on the game with their energy, pace, power and movement and their introduction certainly helped to generate new momentum in the closing stages of the contest.

It is refreshing to see an England squad that has so many options, Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck were not involved, and it will be crucial that Southgate utilises all the talent in his squad as the tournament progresses.

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World Cup One To Watch: England’s 24-year-old goalkeeper Jordan Pickford

The England international will be a player to keep an eye out for in Russia.

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Jordan Pickford
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After an impressive Premier League season for Everton, it perhaps comes a little surprise that Jordan Pickford has been named as England’s first choice goalkeeper for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

At a time when the country’s goalkeeping options have never looked stronger, the Everton number one has emerged as Gareth Southgate’s preferred option ahead of this month’s competition in Russia.

The 24-year-old, preferred to Stoke City‘s Jack Butland and Burnley‘s Nick Pope, now has the opportunity to build on an outstanding season at club level.

To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.

Who is he?

Jordan Pickford became the most expensive British keeper in history after Everton paid £25 million – rising to what would be a club record £30 million – to sign him from Sunderland last summer.

A product of the Black Cats’ Academy, after joining the club aged eight – he has had spells on loan at Darlington, Alfreton Town, Burton Albion, Carlisle United, Bradford City and Preston North End.

Despite a turbulent season for the club as a whole, Pickford enjoyed an impressive debut campaign at Goodison Park, which saw him named the Toffees’ Player of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season.

Playing every minute in all 38 Premier League fixtures for the Blues, the 24-year-old has quickly begun to repay what had previously been considered a hefty price-tag.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

What is his international experience/record?

Having represented England at all levels from Under-16s, Pickford his senior bow in a 0-0 draw against world champions Germany in November 2017 before keeping a second clean sheet in a 1-0 away win against Holland in his second appearance for The Three Lions.

The 24-year-old made only his third international appearances when he started in a 2-1 friendly victory over Nigeria last weekend before he was all-but confirmed as Southgate’s number one shot-stopper ahead of the summer competition.

It is suggested that his superior ability with the ball at his feet and distribution is more conducive to the possession-based pressing style the relatively inexperienced England boss wants to implement.

Why will he be a breakout World Cup star?

“I was really pleased with what Jordan did,” Gareth Southgate revealed, as per BBC Sport, full of praise for Pickford after his performance against Nigeria.

“Normally, when you play for England, there’s not an awful lot of opportunity to produce a lot of saves. But his decision making on crosses, the punch he made, his distribution and calmness to slide passes into midfield… that was really important to the way we want to play.”

Pickford’s form will be absolutely key for an England side that has struggled for creativity in recent years.

The Three Lions’ progression from Group C – competing with Belgium, Tunisia and Panama – is likely to come down to the slimmest of margins and, in keeping goals out at the other end of the pitch, the 24-year-old will be instrumental.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

What is his future after the World Cup?

While many Premier League fans would initially consider Pickford content to stay at Goodison Park, an impressive showing in Russia could prove a springboard to even greater things.

According to recent reports by The Sun, Bayern have been scouting Pickford in recent months as they look to bring in a new long-term first-choice goalkeeper.

The former Sunderland favourite’s progress since his £30 million move means the Bavarian giants have identified the 24-year-old as a top choice for succeeding club icon Manuel Neuer.

Ahead of the World Cup, Bayern will surely not be the only side monitoring his future, with assured goalkeepers becoming increasingly difficult to lay hands on.

Involvement in Russia could result in an unexpected and somewhat premature Goodison exit for Pickford. Watch this space.

To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.

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