Gary Neville believes Marcus Rashford is back to his best form and has earned his place in England’s team for their crucial World Cup last-16 match against Senegal.
Rashford, rejuvenated at Manchester United this season, was handed his first start of the tournament by Gareth Southgate on Tuesday night against Wales and justified his manager’s faith with two goals in an impressive 3-0 win, including a stunning free-kick.
“He’s been like that for a good six months at Manchester United now,” Neville said of Rashford, 25, in an interview with Sky Sports senior reporter Melissa Reddy in Qatar. “He’s back on it.
“That period of his life through lockdown when he achieved so much off the pitch, it’s hard to focus on football.
“I think he’s simplified his life, he’s still achieving great things off the pitch but in a more measured manner, it doesn’t seem as full-on, and on the pitch, we’re now starting to see him.
“There were people in the last 12 to 18 months that said Rashford needed to be sold at Manchester United. That was never bought into by me. Manchester United could never sell Rashford.
“He’s a massive talent, he can improve and he will continue to improve and it’s great to see him in an England shirt.”
Rashford started on the opposite wing to Phil Foden in the Wales win alongside Harry Kane, with the pair coming in for Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka.
It leaves Southgate with an embarrassment of riches in the wide areas as England look ahead to Sunday’s clash with Senegal, but Neville believes Rashford is likely to keep his place.
“I was worried a little bit in the first half when he missed that chance and I wondered whether that would play on his mind,” Neville said.
“But I was delighted he got the two goals in the second half and I think he’s actually pushed himself into a position whereby he’s the one I think will start on Sunday, he’s the one guaranteed to start in that wide position with Kane in the middle.
“It’s that other side where I’m not sure.”
Neville also praised Foden’s performance, given the clamour for him to start after being left an unused substitute in the 1-1 draw with the USA.
“I thought he did really well because there was pressure on him, there was massive focus from everyone on him,” Neville stated.
“I would keep those two in, but I love Sterling, I love Saka as well so I couldn’t really complain if any of them were in.
“Sterling has been a brilliant performer for Gareth so it’s really difficult to see, we could see two out of those three with one in behind.
“I thought Rashford and Foden were the two outstanding players [vs Wales] that looked most dangerous.”
More to follow.