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Man Utd duo Rashford and Jadon Sancho get early World Cup reprieve



Manchester United attackers Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho struggled last season but all is not lost as far as their hopes of playing at the World Cup in Qatar are concerned

If Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were tempted to book themselves a winter break in November, the last two weeks watching England will surely have changed their minds.

Before England’s disastrous quartet of Uefa Nations League games, the Manchester United duo may have believed all seats were filled for the plane to Qatar later this year.

Now, the pair may be back in the running for a World Cup reprieve with England boss Gareth Southgat e no longer certain of his squad for the duel in the desert this winter. Rashford’s already wasted no time sending a message to incoming Dutch boss Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford.

The striker jetted out to California at the end of the season to wed long term girlfriend Lucia Loi. But it wasn’t all sun and surf as Rashford, sporting a ripped physique, posted a 90-second gym video of him working out with weights. With the new season still six weeks away, it’s a statement of intent to ten Hag and Southgate that he’s determined to put the agony’s of last season behind him.

Southgate and his assistant Steve Holland are big Rashford fans and know if the United attacker is fit and flying he’ll be a valuable asset. It’s a big IF after Rashford’s performances last season. But a powerful start to the new campaign by the 24-year-old star would put him right back in the frame for Qatar despite a year out of the England team. It would also dispel the negativity which surfaced last year suggesting his off-field activities took his focus away from football.

The last of his 46 caps was in the delayed Euro 2020 Final against Italy when he came on as a penalty-taking sub at the end of extra-time. After successful kicks from Harry Kane and Harry Maguire, Rashford was third up but struck the post with his effort. It was a pivotal moment in the shoot-out and subsequent misses by Sancho and then Bakayo Saka with the final kick condemned England to defeat.

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Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford struggled at Manchester United last season
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Image:

Pool via REUTERS)

Unlike Rashford, Sancho played again after the Euro Final against Andorra in October last year but hasn’t figured in squad’s for the last nine games. He too has been working out while on holiday in America – and has as much to prove as Rashford in the coming months. When he signed from Borussia Dortmund for £73 million last summer Sancho arrived having scored 16 goals and provided numerous assists in his last season in Germany.

Instead of kicking on he was dragged into United’s downward spiral, although at times showed the kind of exciting ability ten Hag will hope to exploit. Southgate has only two more warm-up games before Qatar – against Italy and Germany in September – and he’ll be watching the United duo closely. But they’re not the only ones who may have found a silver lining in England’s Nation League meltdown. With creativity sadly missing, former England stars Jesse Lingard, a free agent after ditching United, and even Everton’s Dele Alli may be dreaming of a return to the fold if they can hit the ground running.

But it’s in attack where Southgate suddenly has big problems after a failure to score a single goal from open play in four games. That’s alerted Goodison star Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Villa’s Ollie Watkins and injury-hit Leeds striker Patrick Bamford who have all won England caps in the last year. In the space of eleven days Southgate has seen his blueprint for success torn up – and World Cup glory now beckons for those who thought their chance had gone.

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