BURTON-ON-TRENT, United Kingdom: Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had no influence over the decision to excuse Marcus Rashford from duty at the Under-21 European Championship, England manager Gareth Southgate said on Tuesday.
Southgate has frequently underlined the importance of giving young players tournament experience, but he called Rashford into his senior squad, rather than let him play at next month’s Under-21 Euro in Poland.
Mourinho had expressed reservations about Rashford going to Poland, but Southgate said the decision to call the 19-year-old up for England’s forthcoming games against Scotland and France was his and his alone.
“I didn’t speak to him (Mourinho) about it,” Southgate, the former England Under-21 manager, told journalists at St George’s Park in Burton-on-Trent, central England.
“Marcus’s evolution this season has been clear in terms of the responsibility he’s had at his club.
“And when I’ve watched matches like the game away at Chelsea in the cup when he was playing on his own (up front) for long periods of the game, the game against Chelsea at Old Trafford, the European matches — quarterfinals, semifinals — where he had such a big impact in big games, he should be in our squad. The only decision for me was, do we send him to both.”
Southgate added: “The key for us is not the relationship with Jose; it’s the relationship with Marcus.
“And making sure that he senses that we’re not just plonking him somewhere to try to achieve an objective that ticks a box for us.
“We’re very serious about development tournaments, but whenever we’re dealing with young players, we’ve also got to be serious about their own personal development as well.
“Because he’s got huge potential and we’ve got to handle him in the right way to try and get him where we want him long-term.”
Asked if Mourinho had put any pressure on him over Rashford, Southgate replied: “I’ve not spoken to him about it, but I’m not in a position where I can make decisions to keep people happy.
“I’m not going to achieve that. If I’m trying to keep Jose happy, that’s going to be, let’s say, fairly difficult.
“Respectfully, none of the managers are going to be around in 10 years — or (are) very, very unlikely (to be) — and I think people like Marcus Rashford will be. I think that his relationship with England is key.”
Playing abroad ‘positive’
Rashford finished the season with winner’s medals from the League Cup and Europa League, moving Southgate to jokingly describe his prodigiousness as “depressing”.
He was picked ahead of United team-mate Wayne Rooney for England’s World Cup qualifier against Scotland in Glasgow on June 10 and friendly against France in Paris on June 13.
Rooney, 31, has indicated he could leave United during the close season after losing his place in the first XI and Southgate said a move abroad could prove beneficial, citing the experience of Torino loanee Joe Hart.
“It’s been good for Joe Hart,” said Southgate, whose side are four points clear at the top of UEFA World Cup qualifying Group F.
“The idea of our players playing abroad is a good one. Generally they mature in different ways.
“It’s good life experience for them, opens them to different culture, different tactical ways of playing, different styles of coaching. So going abroad in a broader sense is a positive.
“Not enough of our players have done it, really. Maybe if we had — you look at the likes of (Xabi) Alonso, who’s been around Europe and played in the biggest leagues and it’s definitely had a big influence on him.
“I look at Eric Dier and his upbringing in Portugal (with Sporting Lisbon), and I think that’s helped him as the brains of the team. — AFP