Marcus Rashford must start for England in World Cup knockout stages

Tom Gott
Rashford was sublime against Wales
Rashford was sublime against Wales / Alex Livesey - Danehouse/GettyImages

With England all but certain to seal qualification to the knockout stages of the World Cup heading into Tuesday's meeting with Wales, Gareth Southgate opted to turn to some of his fringe forwards to get the job done.

After an uninspiring first half, one of those fringe forwards decided to take the game by the scruff of the neck, and his name was Marcus Rashford.

The Manchester United man opened the scoring with a glorious free-kick, flashing the kind of brilliance that fans of both club and country have been desperate to see for years now.

That goal was undoubtedly the best highlight from the game, but it's the other two which will have made a lasting impression on Southgate.

Phil Foden tapped home a Harry Kane cross just seconds after Rashford's free-kick, but the move was started by some excellent pressing from the Man Utd forward, whose aggression led to a Wales mistake and the easiest of goals for his teammate.

From the defensive work, to the attacking side of things as Rashford netted the third - England's 100th at the World Cup - with a great run that had Connor Roberts looking like Bambi on ice. The power on Rashford's strike was simply too much for Danny Ward.

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It came as no surprise to see Southgate smiling and embracing Rashford as the latter left the pitch with 15 minutes to go. He knew he'd seen something special here and will have already have been concocting plans to maintain that form.

That sort of quality, that energy, was what was missing from England's draw with the United States, and Southgate now has a real decision to make.

Does he go with his preferred charges, Chelsea duo Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount, or does he give Rashford another chance to strut his stuff in the knockout stages?

If Southgate wants goal contributions from his forwards, it would be hard to look past Rashford, who looks to be playing with confidence and a controlled, much-needed arrogance once again.