Alan Shearer is absolutely right - 'under pressure' Man Utd star could face brutal summer decision

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A key Man Utd player will be sweating over their Euro 2024 hopes

We are now just 78 days away from the beginning of Euro 2024. This morning, somewhere deep in the bowels of FA HQ, Gareth Southgate woke up, did one of those big stretch and yawn routines you see in the cartoons, flicked the pom pom from the tip of his little striped night cap out of his eyes, and used a comically large red marker pen to cross another date off the calendar he keeps beside his bed. From there, his schedule consists of nothing other than staring intensely at a list of names he has scribbled on a chalkboard in his study, breaking only for a cheese and pickle sandwich (no crusts) at lunchtime.

You see, picking a squad for a major international tournament is a difficult thing to do, the kind of task that requires a full dedication of brain power and a considerable amount of umming and/or ahing. In England's case, matters are complicated further by the enviable breadth of talent available to Southgate - especially in attacking areas.

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But while certain names - such as Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, and Phil Foden - are nigh on guaranteed to travel with the Three Lions to Germany this summer, there are others who face much nervier waits to learn their fate.

Perhaps one of the more unexpected talents suspended in limbo is Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford. For a long while now, it has simply been taken as a given that the 26-year-old is an unshakeable fixture of this England cohort. But a lacklustre season at Old Trafford, hallmarked by just seven goals in 27 Premier League outings, has left the attacker in a precarious position.

Rashford's cause is not helped by several eye-catching turns from a number of his compatriots either. The likes of Jarrod Bowen and Anthony Gordon both made impressions during this week's friendly double-header against Brazil and Belgium, while it seems almost concrete that Southgate will opt for either Ivan Toney, Ollie Watkins, or both in his efforts to provide cover for the aforementioned Kane at the point of attack.

And there are, therefore, plenty who have their doubts over Rashford's inclusion, not least Alan Shearer. Writing in a Q&A for The Athletic this week, the former England striker said: 'If Rashford plays well between now and the end of the season, then that could potentially force the manager’s hand. But I don’t think he’s a certainty to go, no.

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'He’s not a centre-forward, he doesn’t want to play there. He’d be going as a wide forward who can play as a striker in an emergency. You can tell from his body language that he doesn’t want to play there for Manchester United. If he’s going to be in the squad, it wouldn’t be ahead of Harry Kane, Ollie Watkins or Ivan Toney, it’d be as a wide forward.

'The problem the wingers have is there are so many of them. Jack Grealish, Jarrod Bowen, Rashford, Anthony Gordon, and Bukayo Saka, to name just a few, and so at least a couple of good players could miss out. Grealish and Rashford are definitely under pressure for their positions.'

It is hard to disagree with Shearer. Whereas once upon a time, not so long ago, Rashford was one of the first names on Southgate's team sheet, now he finds himself lost in the shuffle somewhat, scrapping to keep his head above water as those around him stake claims of their own.

What's more, in recent months, we have seen glimpses of a newfound ruthless streak in Southgate's selection policy - a rejection of the accusations of unwavering loyalty and favouritism that have plagued his tenure. Just ask Kalvin Phillips, or more pertinently still, Raheem Sterling.

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In other words, there is a very real possibility that any day now, the England manager could arise from his cosy slumber, update his calendar, then waltz over to his chalkboard and cross out Rashford's name entirely. That is by no means a certainty, but if the Manchester United forward is to ensure that he is part of the Three Lions' Euro 2024 campaign, he needs to up his game, and sharpish.

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