The news that Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho have been left out of Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad has surprised the majority of Manchester United fans.

It’s a disappointing blow for the pair, especially given the close proximity of the mid-season World Cup in Qatar.

But, in truth, what more could Rashford and Sancho have done during the season’s early weeks?

The former has scored three goals and provided two assists, while the latter scored his third of the season in the 2-0 win over Sheriff on Thursday.

We’re barely midway through September, but both Rashford and Sancho are already close to equalling their goal tallies from the entirety of United’s disappointing 2021/22 campaign.

But the positive for both players is that time is still on their side, and the positive for United fans is that it leaves the duo with even more time to work with Erik ten Hag at Carrington during the upcoming international break.

With many United fans ambivalent about the English national team, there’s a hope that Southgate’s oversight will even inspire Marcus and Jadon to work harder, to compete more ferociously, to make the Three Lions’ boss reconsider.

And, in Ten Hag, both players know they have a manager who couldn’t be more excited about having them at his disposal.

The Dutchman revealed his “love” for Rashford earlier this season, while Ten Hag enthused about Sancho after the recent Europa League win in Moldova.

“Jadon has so much has potential,” raved Erik. “He had good pre-season. First he invested a lot and is on his way to getting really fit. 

“It is a process: he scores goals and that is the moment in the season where he is more secure.”

But it is not just the number of goals and assists Rashford and Sancho have contributed so far. It’s the confident way they’ve played their football; it’s the coolness they’ve displayed in the pressure moments.

Rashford’s goals so far in 2022/23 came against Liverpool and Arsenal (two) – arguably United’s most difficult fixtures of the current campaign. Sancho’s goal at Leicester earned us all three points and he also set us on the road to victory in that aforementioned Liverpool game.

The manner in which Sancho sat James Milner down and sent Alisson the wrong way was a joy to behold. His cool finishes at Leicester and in Chisinau were just as elegant. There is a growing suspicion that the Londoner’s blood gets colder the closer he gets to the net.

As for Rashford? His love for the big games is already well acknowledged among United fans. Look though his career stats and you’ll notice he has scored more goals against Liverpool (six) than any other team.

And it’s not just the Scousers he loves putting to the sword. He has delivered five against Chelsea and four versus both Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. Against the top teams, no United player has been more successful in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.

Southgate has left the door open for both players, and Rashford’s injury may have kept him out of the current games anyway. Open-minded commentators might suggest that the England manager is using his one last chance to look at Ivan Toney and Jarrod Bowen. After all, he is already well aware of the big-match experience possessed by the United pair, having selected Sancho 23 times and Rashford on 46 occasions.

“Marcus Rashford has shown some encouraging signs recently,” explained the England boss. “He is a player we know well, so if he can perform at a high level in the next few weeks, he of course will be under consideration.

“There were certain players we wanted to keep involved this time but, that said, it doesn’t mean that this is the end for some of the others who aren’t involved.”

The only response for the pair is more hard work and more goals for United, which will be music to the ears of Ten Hag and the club’s millions of fans.

“[The World Cup] is one of the targets, and it is unfortunate that I didn’t get the call-up,” Sancho told us after the match in Moldova.

“But I have to keep focusing on myself and keep working hard, week in and week out. So that is what I am going to do.”

If both players keep going the way they have started under Erik ten Hag, they will making many people very, very happy.

And if we are the natural beneficiaries of England’s approach to selection, then the United fanbase won’t be losing too much sleep.

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