Whether or not England go on to lift the World Cup title, or go further than the quarter final against Sweden, one thing has become abundantly clear under Gareth Southgate.
His astuteness and nous has seen a number of his young players going out onto the pitch fearless and able to fully express themselves. Not constrained in any way, they’re given the confidence to play their natural game and, where possible, enjoy themselves.
Compare and contrast Marcus Rashford’s demeanour with England to when he’s playing for Manchester United.
Though Jose Mourinho isn’t paid to be ‘nice’ or ‘popular,’ he must realise that the pantomime villain act is all getting a bit passé now.
Now, the usual modus operandi has reared its ugly head at Old Trafford, and it’s not just Rashford that’s suffering. Luke Shaw was the first to get on the manager’s wrong side, and Anthony Martial quickly followed suit.
Rashford is just the latest in a very long line to be played out of position and then challenged by Mourinho to up his game and give him something extra, rather than offering support and guidance.
With his pace and eye for goal, he has to be played down the middle, but the Portuguese seems to feel that Rashford’s best position is out wide.
Left out of some of the biggest games in 2017/18, and with no apparent reason, the youngster isn’t getting the minutes his talent deserves.
If you also consider that Mourinho couldn’t develop Kevin de Bruyne, Mo Salah and Romelu Lukaku as young players, there has to be a concern that Rashford will end up treading the same path through no fault of his own.
The player’s advisors therefore have a very difficult decision in terms of advising their client what to do next.
Mourinho wants instant results and in so doing, he will play bigger, more established names rather than throwing in youngsters and allowing them to find their feet.
Rashford needs games – now. Not a handful of minutes here and there. Full games, where he can make his mistakes and learn from them.
He won’t get that at United for as long as Mourinho is in charge and the wider issue is whether his club form, should it dip, translates onto the international scene and England find another promising youngster has gone backwards.
A Manchester United boy at heart, it would be a tremendous wrench to leave the club he loves, but Rashford needs to look at the bigger picture.
There would be at least half a dozen top sides that would take him now and play him in exactly the role he desires, and which produces the best results.
His next decision could be the biggest of his short career.
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