Gareth Southgate fires warning to England squad with message to Man Utd's Marcus Rashford


Impressive performances in the 5-0 win against Andorra on Saturday by Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka all pressed individual claims for a place in the likely starting team in Qatar next November.

But with Rashford also set to join the mix again soon after shoulder surgery this summer, one of his biggest names looks set to miss out with Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling almost certain to claim starting berths.

“That competition is there,” Southgate said as he prepares to name an almost entirely different starting team for the game against Hungary at Wembley.

“For all of the players, there is competition for places. Marcus will be back to fitness soon, but that again is good, it is healthy for our squad.”

The Hungary game sees the return fixture to the one that was marred with racist chanting in Budapest last month.

But Southgate is backing his players to focus on the match at hand.

“To be honest we will just be focusing on performing well, playing well, trying to win the game and trying to put on a performance for our fans at home,” he said.

“We talked about how resilient the group is and those types of experiences bring you together as a group.

“They are reference points as much as anything for us as a performance. The way we went into an intimidating atmosphere and controlled the game for long periods.

“The rest I don’t think the players would want to focus on, I think they would want to get on with the game.”

Southgate meanwhile insists he has no fears about John Stones’ lack of football at Manchester City interfering with his international career.

Stones played for 60 minutes of the pedestrian 5-0 thrashing of Andorra to get some minutes into his legs and will start again on Tuesday against Hungary in a more meaningful encounter at Wembley.

He also featured in all 90 minutes of the two World Cup qualifiers against Hungary and Poland last month.

But the last time he kicked a ball in anger for City was in the Champions League final defeat to Chelsea in Portugal way back in May.

Southgate has always said that not playing regularly at club level makes it difficult a player to be considered for England, and Stones’ previous period out of Pep Guardiola’s first-team thoughts saw him go 16 months until this March without playing for the Three Lions.

However, now Southgate feels the 27-year-old centre-back is more a victim of circumstances.

“I don’t foresee it being a problem,” the England manager said. “He’s just been really unfortunate.

“He got a niggle at the start of the season just before their first game, then got injured in training the day after he came back to sit on the bench.

“Going into that last run of three games – against Liverpool, PSG and Chelsea – a lot of the big managers like to play a team that are up to speed physically.

“But when John goes back he will have that many games and everybody knows his quality. So he will be in the team and I don’t think that will be an issue going forward.”



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