Marcus Rashford will have to make himself available for next summer’s European Under-21 Championship regardless of how much football he has played over the course of the season for Manchester United and England.
The Football Association are determined to ensure that whoever is in charge of the Under-21s next summer has as many options available as possible, which will include United forward Rashford. Under-21s manager Gareth Southgate is currently serving as caretaker manager for the senior team following Sam Allardyce’s resignation, and he will definitely take charge of next month’s encounter against Scotland and Spain before a decision is made on his future.
Aidy Boothroyd has stepped up from his role with the Under-20s side to deputise for Southgate, and could be in contention to lead the Under-21s should Southgate receive the senior job on a permanent basis.
There has been plenty of debate over Rashford’s inclusion in the senior squad, with some believing that he can offer more to the current crop of players if he’s given a starting berth while others believe he should learn his trade with regular appearances for the youth side.
The United forward, who turns 19 at the end of this month, was left out of Allardyce’s squad for the opening World Cup qualifier against Slovakia, but was included by Southgate for the recent win over Malta and draw in Slovenia. Rashford had to make do with substitute appearances in both of those matches though, meaning he only played a combined 30 minutes for the Three Lions.
The England Under-21s were also in action during the international break, and there is a case to say that Rashford would have received much more playing time if he had featured in the wins over Kazakhstan and Bosnia-Herzegovina in their European Under-21 Championship qualifiers.
According to The Times, FA chief executive Martin Glenn is determined to include Rashford in the Under-21s next summer in an effort to give young players more exposure to major tournaments in an effort to improve their mental strength. Rashford has made just two appearances for England at youth level, though that is in-part due to his incredible rise last season as the teenager already has five senior caps to his name.
Rashford is also believed to be open to playing for the Under-21s in Poland next summer due to the fact that his playing time in United’s first team this season is far from guaranteed. He was selected by Jose Mourinho to start the 0-0 draw with Liverpool on Monday night in what was his fourth consecutive Premier League start, but a poor performance at Anfield could see Mourinho shuffle the pack this weekend for the crucial trip to Chelsea.
United would also be uneasy with sending Rashford to the Under-21 Championship next year if he plays a full season for them as well as with England. However, the report adds that Glenn is determined to take a stronger stance against Premier League clubs, with the feeling that the FA has bowed to pressure from them too easily in the past.
Both Luke Shaw and Jack Wilshere have been exempt from selection in the 2015 and 2013 respectively after their clubs ruled them too fatigued to feature following a full season of Premier League football. Another England midfielder who, in hindsight, should have been included in last year’s Under-21 tournament was Ross Barkley, with the FA now accepting that he would have gained much more from regular football in the Czech Republic rather than sitting on the bench at Euro 2016, where he failed to make a single appearance during England’s ill-fated campaign in France.