‘Unplayable’ Marcus Rashford fires warning shot to World Cup rivals as confident England march into last-16

Marcus Rashford’s England team-mates have warned their World Cup rivals that the rejuvenated Manchester United star could be “unplayable” in the knockout stage.

Rashford scored twice against Wales last night to send England through to the last 16, and will now hope to keep his place in the team against Senegal on Sunday.

Phil Foden also scored, as England got back on track with a 3-0 win on a good night for manager Gareth Southgate, in which he got his selection and tactics spot on.

Rashford struggled for fitness and confidence after missing a penalty in the Euro 2020 Final shootout defeat by Italy, but he won his place back in the England squad for the World Cup.

After his double last night, the 25-year-old is joint top in the race for the Golden Boot, level with Kylian Mbappe, Enner Valencia and Cody Gakpo on three goals.

And his team-mates are confident Rashford will be a threat to anyone in the knockout stage.

“He showed he belongs on this stage,” said defender and Rashford’s United team-mate Harry Maguire.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Marcus. He is a wonderful man and a great player. Throughout a long career, you will always have ups and downs and it is all about how you bounce back when you are out of form.

“He has really found his form again for Manchester United and he is a massive player for our club. He has kept working hard and done that tirelessly. When he gets that opportunity, with the confidence that he has, he is a threat to anyone.”

Wales v England FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar | Group B Match | 29th November 2022

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Rashford started on the left against Wales, but Southgate tweaked his attack after a flat first half and swapped the forward over with Foden, who also impressed on his first start of the tournament.

Rashford opened the scoring with a thumping free-kick and scored his second with a powerful shot that went through goalkeeper Danny Ward. He will hope to keep Raheem Sterling out of the team when England meet Senegal in their last-16 clash on Sunday.

Southgate afterwards paid tribute to Rashford, saying: “He is so good and, with the talent he has got, he can be unplayable. He showed it tonight and he needs to deliver that in every game he plays.

“He has the quality to make the difference. He is an unbelievable player and very important to us. We hope he can keep his standards high and keep doing it for us. I think he took his chance tonight. It was his time to start and he took his chance.”

We’ve got a completely different version to the player we had in the Euros last summer.

Southgate now has a selection conundrum for the Senegal game.

“It’s been a challenge for him [Rashford],” he said. “I went and saw him in the summer and had a long chat with him. He had some clear ideas on things he felt he needed to think about and to do. You can see at his club there’s been happiness in his performances this year. That’s shown itself on the training ground with us.

“We’ve got a different version completely to the player we had in the Euros last summer. He’s managed to produce those moments tonight. He could have had a hat-trick with the chance in the first half and the one at the near post towards the end. But it’s great for him and it’s great for us.”

England have won their World Cup group for the first time since 2006 and Southgate believes his players are more confident than they were in Russia four years ago, when they reached the semi-finals.

England fans | FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar

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“There is a different mentality about the whole group,” he said. “There’s more belief. Our objectives are different. In Russia, we were just thinking about, ‘Could we win a knockout game?’. There’s more expectation now, but more confidence and more experience of big matches.”

Rashford could not hide his delight, saying: “Moments like this are what we play for, the biggest moments, the best moments, and I’m really happy with going through to the next round of the tournament.

“Hopefully, we can now build on this and I have massive ambition for this team.”