England manager Gareth Southgate has warned the Manchester United players missing from his current squad that they face a tough test to secure a spot for the World Cup in Qatar later this year.
The Three Lions are preparing for their fourth Nations League match against Hungary on Tuesday, following a three-match winless streak that has seen them lose in Budapest before draws with Germany and Italy.
Southgate’s focus is already on fine-tuning his squad for the World Cup, which begins on November 21, and managing the “strange lead-in” to the finals that fall midway through the 2022-23 Premier League season.
There are several notable absentees from Southgate’s ranks this month, including Manchester United trio Luke Shaw, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, with Harry Maguire currently the only representative from United in the squad.
When asked if United’s absence from the Champions League next season could result in their England contingent being fresher than some of their counterparts, Southgate declared “They’ve got a lot to do to get back in the squad.”
Shaw is currently sidelined through injury and has a clearer route back into Southgate’s plans since Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell is currently the only recognised left-back available, while Sancho and Rashford were both omitted due to poor form.
With just one England camp before the World Cup, falling in September with the final two Nations League games against Germany and Italy, opportunities to break back into the squad will be limited and there is vast competition for a seat on the plane to Qatar.
Rashford contributed four goals and two assists for United in the Premier League last season in 25 appearances, while Sancho’s debut season at Old Trafford saw him net three goals and secure three assists in 29 league appearances.
— England (@England) June 12, 2022
Southgate has until October 21 to submit a long list of players to FIFA, with the final squad expected to be announced three weeks later.
The 51-year-old, who has come under fire for his perceived cautious team selections, is hoping to work closely with clubs to monitor the fitness of his players early next season.
“Information sharing is pretty good medically and we get the performance data from the Premier League so you’ve got some markers,” he said.
“But equally there’s always an understanding that clubs that have big games might not want to share certain things too early if they’ve got players that might miss games.
“In general we have decent relationships with the clubs on that stuff but there’s always going to be a bit of an element of the unknown in that period.”