Marcus Rashford has been thrown out by England’s new generation and may never return

Marcus Rashford played in a European Championship at the age of 18, four months after being an unknown who had never played first-team football. At 26 years old, a year into the season of his life, he has not made the provisional 33-man roster, much less the final cut. Rashford’s rise was initially a rapid and surprising affair. If last season brought Rashford’s resurgence, with a career-best 30 goals, this one brought a sudden and shocking fall that has led to a more precipitous fall, out of the England competition.

Around 12 players were listed as forwards in Gareth Southgate’s training squad for Euro 2024. Rashford was not one of them. “With Marcus, I feel like other players in that area of ​​the field have had better seasons. It’s as simple as that,” he said. The comparison with Jarrod Bowen, scorer of 20 goals for West Ham, or Anthony Gordon, with double figures of goals and assists in the Premier League, did not flatter Rashford. He was surpassed by the emergence of Cole Palmer, who scored 25 goals and 14 assists in a remarkable campaign for Chelsea, and the late-season flourish of Eberechi Eze, who scored five goals in his last six games for Crystal Palace.

But the warning signs were there before and went unheeded. Rashford only spent 15 minutes as a substitute in England’s March friendlies; Bowen scored 103 in the two matches and Gordon 85. If the temptation was to think that Southgate had little more to learn about a player who won 57 of his 60 caps during his reign, this was not simply a two-match research expedition . inexperienced players. Southgate had warned Rashford that his place could be at risk. He then retreated when it was necessary to advance.

Marcus Rashford will be excluded from Euro 2024 (The FA via Getty Images)

“I talked to him a little bit in March about his season (and) others who have been playing very well in that area of ​​the field,” he said. Rashford then arrived in his best form of the season, scoring in three consecutive games for Manchester United. Since that international break, Rashford has missed games due to minor injuries. But he has not managed to score in eight games with his club either; Palmer alone has nine goals in that time, sealing his place in Southgate’s team after missing the Brazil and Belgium matches in March. Southgate has been impressed. “We think the Gordons and the Bowens have had brilliant seasons,” he said. “We liked the hunger they brought in March. This gives a different dynamic to training and competition for places. It does not allow complacency within the group.”

Now there is no place for Rashford in the group. And then it was the England manager’s turn to deliver bad news. “He was very respectful,” Southgate said. “I told him, ‘You’ve got to go and score a couple of goals this weekend and put things right.’” However, the likelihood is that Rashford will be on the bench for the FA Cup final; Alejandro Garnacho is now Erik ten Hag’s starting left winger. For both club and country, Rashford appears overtaken by the next generation – the oldest player at 26 in the business risks becoming a thing of the past at a tender age.

“He wants to play for England, he loves playing for England and the opportunity to play in tournaments is the reason you play international football,” Southgate said. If Rashford is suffering extraordinary competition for places on the flanks of England’s attack, there is a sense that two tournaments have brought opposite experiences: first was the comforting return, when he timed his emergence into the 2022 World Cup squad and scored one minute. in his tournament; Then, after his glorious goal against Italy helped seal England’s place at Euro 2024, Rashford will miss out.

He is young enough to feature in Euro 2028, perhaps even Euro 2032. But one possibility is that his last shot at a ball in the European Championship is the penalty he hit against the post in the final shootout against Italy ago. three years: brought in as a Penalty Shooting Specialist and auxiliary right back, his appearance was heartbreaking. Then, horribly, the racial abuse. He has often been made the scapegoat. He may be again; As with Jordan Henderson, there may be some joy in his downfall.

Rashford could be on the bench for the FA Cup final (Zac Goodwin/PA) (PA file)

“You’re really aware of the impact that Marcus and Hendo have because they’re two people who externally have people jumping on them very quickly and I think they know I’m there to support them,” Southgate said.

But there are precedents, talismanic figures that have been retired before. Rashford’s England career doesn’t necessarily end at 26; but there is no guarantee of another act. Raheem Sterling has not been called up since the World Cup; he may not be again. Southgate may be ruthless, but not, I would say, cruel.

“I hope it’s not brutal because I think the players would accept that they have been supported at certain times,” he said. “We have had to evolve. We had to leave room for other people to pass. The job is about making difficult decisions at certain times. You can’t shy away from that. I don’t think I’ve ever done it. “They are difficult conversations but you do them with the greatest respect possible.” He has now not shied away from making a decision about Rashford, and his miserable season has only gotten worse.