Euro 2024 lifeline for Marcus Rashford as England to select 26-man squad

Gareth Southgate and Marcus Rashford at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Marcus Rashford will hope to be thrown a lifeline after the decision to increase squad sizes for this summer’s European Championship.

The Manchester United forward is unlikely to make Gareth Southgate’s squad if it had remained at 23 players given the emergence of stronger alternatives and his poor form.

However, a Uefa vote on Monday approved the move to 26 which has been lobbied for by national coaches, including Southgate, who are concerned about player burn-out and injury.

Rashford played just 15 minutes across England’s recent friendlies against Brazil and Belgium which were the final two games before Southgate names his provisional squad on May 21.

Rashford did not get onto the pitch at all against Belgium - even though England were losing - having failed to impress during his cameo against Brazil.

Southgate also appeared to be cool on Rashford’s prospects after the game. “Well, I wanted to see Anthony Gordon. I think he’s been excellent for his club. And obviously Marcus got on in the first game,” he said.

“But I wanted to see Gordon again (against Belgium). I thought (James) Maddison coming on would have an impact and (Jarrod) Bowen has also had a really good camp. So there’s competition for places.

“I said when I named the squad there is competition for places in those wide areas. It’s a bit of a shame that Cole Palmer missed so much training that we weren’t able to put him into the (Belgium) game at the stage it was, having missed most of the week. We weren’t 100 per cent certain what we would get whereas with Gordon we knew and Maddison we knew. I wouldn’t rule Cole out of that equation.”

Rashford has endured a difficult season and was booed by United fans after being substituted during Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final win over Coventry City.

Marcus Rashford during Manchester United's FA Cup semi-final against Coventry
Rashford has struggled for form with Manchester United this season - Getty Images/Allstar

An absentee looks to be Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling, even with a bigger squad. He and Rashford have featured at nine major tournaments between them.

A certain beneficiary of the squad size increase is set to be Rashford’s United team-mate Luke Shaw who Southgate wants to take to the tournament but is suffering from a long-term hamstring problem.

Southgate revealed the possibility of an enlarged squad – the original Uefa plan was to revert to 23 players – following England’s recent international friendlies which were impacted by players pulling out.

That was ahead of a meeting of all the national coaches in Dusseldorf two weeks ago. The move was approved at a further meeting, of the Uefa national competitions committee, on Monday.

Larger squads were used at the last Euros, because of Covid, and continued for the World Cup in Qatar but it had been expected that Southgate and the other coaches, including Scotland’s Steve Clarke, would only be able to choose 23 for the tournament in Germany.

The decision is not yet fully agreed – it needs to be rubber-stamped by the Uefa executive committee - but given the groundswell of opinion it will be waved through. The ExCo is likely to give its approval later this week.

It also means that nations are likely to be able to choose 26 players for all future tournaments given the growing demands upon them and the congested fixture schedule.

Southgate has been among the coaches lobbying that all the players are allowed to be part of the match-day squad at the tournament – as happened at the last World Cup but was not permitted at the previous Euros. This is also likely to happen.

Jason Burt’s squad for Euro 2024

Goalkeepers: Pickford, Ramsdale, Henderson
Defenders: Walker, Alexander-Arnold, Trippier, Shaw, Stones, Maguire, Konsa, Gomez
Midfielders: Rice, Mainoo, Bellingham, Gallagher, Maddison, Foden, Saka, Grealish, Bowen, Palmer
Forwards: Kane, Toney

Standby: Watkins, Gordon, Guehi

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.