England manager Gareth Southgate has insisted he is fine with Marcus Rashford jetting off to the United States this international window having been ruled out of the Three Lions’ games with injury.
Rashford – one of the Premier League’s standout players this season – was ruled out of contention for England’s Euro 2024 qualifiers this month with an ankle problem.
Though it’s largely accepted that injured players head off on holiday while recovering, Rashford drew criticism from some corners after making a trip to New York this week.
But Southgate – who admitted in recent days he was frustrated that the Manchester United forward is rarely fit during international windows – leapt to the defence of Rashford in this instance.
“Once he is ruled out of the squad, it’s entirely up to him how he spends his time,” Southgate said.
“The players don’t get a lot of breaks, so I think for all of them, once they’ve got a little bit of time…I’m sure our players will be flying off wherever after [Sunday’s match against Ukraine]. If they get 48 hours, with the schedule as it is, I think they have to take advantage of it.”
Southgate was then asked whether he was annoyed that Rashford had pulled out of five of the last six England squads – excluding that for the 2022 FIFA World Cup – that he had named, but again sought to diffuse the situation.
“The priority is qualification [for Euro 2024] and that’s what everybody here is focused on. We’ve talked about our ultimate aim is to be European champions but we’ve got some work to do first. We’re just focused on the lads who are here and getting on with the game,” he said.
Though Rashford is currently nursing an ankle problem, it is not thought to be a serious one and he should return to the training pitch in the near future.
It’s possible that he starts for United in their crunch top-four clash at Newcastle on Sunday April 2. The Red Devils then return to Old Trafford to take on Brentford three days later.
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