Why England’s boss got it so wrong picking Man Utd teenager
Marcus Rashford is an emerging English talent who deserves to be celebrated, but Roy Hodgson’s decision to spin the dice on Manchester United’s teenager looks like a reckless gamble ahead of Euro 2016.
Almost a month prior to announcing his provisional 26-man England squad, of which Rashford made the cut, Three Lions boss Hodgson said this of United’s 18-year-old.
“Does he have a very bright future? Is it inconceivable that he could go with England? No, it’s not inconceivable but it looks unlikely to me with the current players we’ve got and the competition for places in that area of the field.”
These comments were made back in mid-April, soon after Rashford had taken his tally to seven goals in his first 13 appearances for the Red Devils. Understandably, this kid’s impact was getting hard for Hodgson to ignore.
Even at that juncture, though, when Rashford reached peak vogue, finding holes in Hodgson’s pragmatic approach to his prospective selection was difficult.
Rashford won’t budge the ‘holy trinity’, let alone England’s ‘fourth choice’
The three players certainly ahead of United’s breakthrough star in any perceived pecking order, show the almost unparalleled health of England’s striker stocks ahead of a major tournament.
Wayne Rooney is England’s all-time leading scorer, but even the skipper’s place in the team isn’t guaranteed thanks to the competition provided by the Premier League’s leading marksman Harry Kane and 24-goal Jamie Vardy, a title winner with Leicester.
Taking up the other provisional striker spot is Daniel Sturridge, a player who netted one of only two England goals at the 2014 World Cup, and looking to improve on a recent burst of five goals in eight games when Liverpool contest the Europa League final.
Old Trafford’s greenest goal-getter has subsequently gone four appearances without a finding the net ahead of United’s rearranged final fixture against Bournemouth.
But this is a moot point even if the youngster signs off the season with a hat-trick.
England’s defensce and attack are night and day
This embarrassment of riches in England’s attack is offset by the one of the poorest consignments of centre-halves travelling to a finals.
In order to crowbar Rashford into his initial squad, Hodgson has left himself scrapping the barrel in the heart of his backline.
The divisive figure of John Stones is Plan B for first choice pairing of vice-captain Gary Cahill and Man United’s Chris Smalling, with the Chelsea man arguably fortunate to be afforded default status off the back of a shaky domestic campaign.
Perhaps Hodgson sees Tottenham’s Eric Dier as a viable Plan C should injuries or suspensions occur.
The Spurs enforcer began life as a centre-half but would feel a fish out of water following his remoulding as a defensive midfielder at White Hart Lane.
Dropping the 39-capped Phil Jagielka is a massive call in the circumstances, even if the calibre of alternatives was always against Hodgson.
It’s a waste of a pick given the squad’s imbalance
If Rashford does something out the ordinary in England’s remaining friendly fixtures (i.e score in every one of the three) then there is a case he merits a place in France.
More realistically though, he would be the second of two striker subs behind Sturridge, if Hodgson somehow find a way of accommodating Rooney, Vardy and Kane, which is in itself very doubtful.
It’s no good taking a completely top-heavy squad to the tournament if all England’s attacking menace is undone by weakness in defence.
Rashford’s time will come; it just shouldn’t be his moment yet.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.