Focused on United: Gareth Southgate finally offers clarity to Greenwood situation

Questions are asked about Mason Greenwood every time Gareth Southgate names his England squad, as was the case on Thursday when he named a 25-man squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Albania and San Mario.

The young forward was given his England debut in September of last year – off the bench against Iceland. Then, himself and Man City’s Phil Foden breached COVID regulations while at the team hotel, which tarnished the United starlet’s reputation ever so slightly as they were both sent home.

The reason Greenwood questions come with every selection is down to the fact he has not played for Southgate since that very incident.

Greenwood to date, however, has never struck us as a troublemaker during his time at United. He bounced back after being victimised in the media and is back on track in a United shirt, after scoring four goals in nine Premier League matches.

Southgate faced questioning over whether some of his younger talents were picking and choosing their games, but he said cases involving Greenwood and Bellingham were more “development changes”. The Borussia Dortmund star told Southgate he needed a rest, as quoted by The Guardian.

The England manager elaborated on the situation with Greenwood, saying the player wanted to concentrate on establishing himself at United, adding there was “no suggestion that what happened before is affecting things.

“We had a discussion before the camp in September and we came to an agreement. John McDermott [the FA’s technical director] and myself went to United and had a good chat with Mason and his family and we agreed we would park this until next year, basically. We would leave the autumn games.

“If he establishes himself in Manchester United’s team then he is going to be very close to an England squad or an England team so he recognises that. He wants to play for England. He is clear about that. We are not not picking Mason because we don’t think he’s good enough or we are not happy with what he requested. We are totally understanding of that and we are happy to wait.

“Also we have seen lots of youth development and this is his and his family’s one and only chance, so they are understandably more cautious than we might be. We believe these boys can be very big players for England in the long term and we don’t want to get it wrong in the short term.”

Two winnable ties for the Euro 2020 finalists and the squad includes three United players: Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford.

Dean Henderson, Jesse Lingard and Jadon Sancho were among those to be left disappointed after missing out on a place.

Although they haven’t played anywhere near enough games to warrant a place in Southgate’s plans for the next two England matches, they have every right to question the form of Maguire and Shaw going into the next international break.

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United fans will be worried about the fitness of Rashford if he plays for the Three Lions during the international break. Of course, they have every right to be. Our track record with players coming back from internationals with injuries and knocks is abysmal, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can’t afford to lose more key players for sustained periods.

Rashford is only back he is already back amongst the goals, after missing a chunk of the season already to undergo shoulder surgery after the European Championships.

SN’s verdict…

The incident between Greenwood and Foden was minor. It was no a reason to fear we had another Ravel Morrison on our hands, not by any means…

It think it shows his character that he wants to work on establishing himself at United and put England on the back foot for now.

I’m firmly under the impression that Greenwood is the future – to a point, I’m no longer rooting to see Erling Haaland join in the summer (I’d still take him!). The team has bigger problems and Cristiano Ronaldo’s going nowhere.

Greenwood needs to use the next year to do his utmost to learn from not just Ronaldo, but Edinson Cavani.

Southgate had to come out and explain his selections – but why has he left it until now?

Thankfully, it’s out of the way now.

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