18 June 2023

Gareth Southgate sees ‘big progress’ in Marcus Rashford’s goalscoring prowess

18 June 2023

England manager Gareth Southgate has hailed the “big progress” in Marcus Rashford’s goalscoring prowess and insists the Manchester United forward “loves” playing for his country.

The 25-year-old has scored eight goals in his last 17 international appearances, including three at the 2022 World Cup.

Having netted just seven goals in his first 35 caps, Rashford’s improved recent record has mirrored his new-found killer instinct at club level.

He ended the season with 30 goals in 56 appearances for United as Southgate praised his improved output.

“The obvious thing is the goals,” he replied when asked what Rashford has brought to his game.

“I think when he has had chances this season that you expect him to score as the season has gone on. Maybe in previous seasons that was a little bit less of a certainty.

“I think, in working with Erik (ten Hag), he has had to work a bit differently without the ball. There’s been a bit more onus on that as a team. I would say the goal tally is big progress for him and something he will be pleased about.

“At the moment I still think he’s better from the left than as a nine but he’s definitely made progress as a nine this year and had a bigger impact.”

Rashford came on for the final half hour of Friday’s comfortable 4-0 win in Malta as England maintained their 100 per cent start to their Euro 2024 qualification campaign.

He’s definitely made progress as a nine this year and had a bigger impact

They host North Macedonia next, the game at Old Trafford on Monday night marking the halfway point of Group C with Southgate’s side now firm favourites to advance in top spot.

It will be a chance for Rashford to add to his impressive tally in his home stadium, with Southgate’s long-standing relationship with the player having proved key.

“I’ve had him since he was in the Under-21s, really,” he added. “He kind of came back to us because he had been up with Roy (Hodgson) and then had one game back with us.

“We’ve always had good communication, I know him as well as anybody is going to know him. He’s not always easy to read.

“He does love playing for England, he’s very proud to play for England and I’m sure an England game at Old Trafford will be a special moment for him.”

On withdrawals from international duty, the England boss continued: “I think for all the players, there was a possibility with the length of season that they’ve had that we could have a lot of pull-outs but the only players that we’ve lost are Lewis (Dunk) and Jude (Bellingham) – who spent half the camp with us anyway.

“That’s a good sign. We’ve talked to the players about commitment being an important factor over the next 18 months. The more players that are here, they can hear the messages from the games that we play.

“I think Marcus is pleased that he has been able to work with our medical team and make a lot of progress in this period of time. We were always hoping this would be the case.

“In fact, Marcus did it 18 months ago leading into the Euros. There was a camp where he was just having treatment really.

“Part of being a team is the rest of your team-mates recognising you are in on this. Just by spending time with them, you get better relationship and communication to create more of a feeling of togetherness.”

While Rashford will be itching to play at Old Trafford, Southgate also insists the Manchester City quintet in his ranks could come into the side.

John Stones, Kyle Walker, Kalvin Phillips, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden were all on the bench in Malta just six days after helping City complete the treble by beating Inter Milan in the Champions League final.

“It is possible,” Southgate said when asked if they could start, with Foden the only player to be utilised in Malta.

“There are some very talented players and important players for us so it is difficult to name a team.”

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