England boss Gareth Southgate intends to meet with Marcus Rashford in a bid to get to the bottom of his downturn in form.
Rashford has been left out of the Three Lions squad for the forthcoming friendlies with Switzerland – an Alzheimer’s Society International – and Ivory Coast after a disappointing period for Manchester United.
The 24-year-old has looked a shadow of himself this season, scoring just five goals in 26 appearances in a struggling United side, and clashed with fans after the Champions League loss to Atletico Madrid.
Southgate hopes to meet with Rashford after the international break to see if he can help rediscover his best form in time for the World Cup.
“I think Marcus is very realistic,” Southgate said. “He knows he is in a situation where he has not been getting in the United team consistently and he will be searching as much as anybody to get that form back.
“We know he is desperate to do well and wants to do well and maybe we can help a little bit with that.
“I think it is important, perhaps after this camp, for me to go and sit with him and find out a bit more about what is going on.
“But also there is a reality that we are not working with him every day, so there is a limit to what that is probably going to achieve.
“I am sure everybody at United is going to be working hard towards that and of course, ultimately, there is a big responsibility for any player within that.
“I often hear that this coach or that coach has got the best out of somebody but I think the very best players play well for pretty much every coach they play for.
“Always as a player you look at yourself and you try to get things back on track first.”
Southgate added: “We always want to see our players enjoying their football and playing well and you have to have a question mark over both of those things at the minute. We have got to try and help if we can.
“It will be beneficial for me to sit with him, he hasn’t been in many of our squads over the last two years, he got picked and he hasn’t been able to meet up. That would be time well spent.”
Rashford enjoyed a brilliant start to his career, making his name as a teenage prodigy with both club and country.
Southgate did not want to speculate on the causes for his drop in form but believes he will come good.
“With one or two of our players in the past who have had dips and come through them you can say, ‘Look, they came through that, they responded well and became more strong and they showed the character needed’,” the boss explained.
“That is what he is going to have to prove now in the coming weeks and months. Nobody’s career goes smoothly from start to finish and of course his rise from when he first broke into the team at United was incredible, really.
“Maybe he is just receiving this period at a different phase of his career to other players.
“They all go through it at some point and they all go through it for maybe different lengths of time. And there can be any number of reasons for it. I think it would be wrong to speculate on that because I am sure there are always several factors to it.
“But as I said, it is where it is at this moment in time. We all want the best. We all want very good players.
“We all believe he can be an asset for his club and for his country and hopefully we can get back to that point.”
Southgate was also forced to field several questions on Rashford’s United team-mate Harry Maguire’s inclusion.
Maguire has also struggled at club level in recent weeks, but Southgate never considered it an option to leave him out.
“He’s been first choice for us for the last three years, I don’t see any logic in us leaving him out of a squad at this moment in time,” Southgate said.
“I’m not sure who else would be coming in to play at a higher level who we could really hang our hat on at a World Cup situation in eight games’ time.
“It’s not been ideal for Harry. But I’ve got great faith that we can get him into a structure and way of playing that we’ve always managed to accentuate his considerable strengths. Like all players, all players have areas where they need protecting and that’s what you try to do as a coach and a manager, trying to set your team up in that way.”
The boss added to BBC Radio 5 Live: “We know that (John) Stones and Maguire have performed at the highest possible level and excelled at the highest possible level and we have never had any issue with their form in an England shirt.
“You are always having to balance off what is happening at the club, but those two are outstanding and we don’t have better than them in the country at this moment in time.
“The club situation I have got to separate slightly from that.”