‘I’m as good a defender as anyone,’ Chris Smalling tells England manager

• Manchester United defender ‘surprised’ by Gareth Southgate’s decision
• José Mourinho to rest Young, Mata and Valencia against BaselChris Smalling has questioned Gareth Southgate’s judgment, saying he was surprised the England manager dropped him from the friendlies against Germany and Brazil for not being accomplished enough at playing from the back. Smalling also insisted that if he continued to perform successfully for Manchester United, Southgate would be forced to select him for the World Cup. Continue reading...

José Mourinho says Phil Jones had six injections in thigh to play for England

• Manchester United manager asks why defender played Germany friendly
• Antonio Conte tells Gareth Southgate to contact him regarding players’ fitnessJosé Mourinho has made clear his frustration at the England setup’s handling of Phil Jones after revealing the defender had been given six local anaesthetic injections in his thigh before last week’s friendly against Germany. Jones started as England’s most-capped player for the goalless draw at Wembley, but hobbled off midway through the first half with a recurrence of an injury first sustained in the Premier League defeat at Huddersfield Town in mid-October. Gareth Southgate, whose handling of Danny Drinkwater’s decision not to join the senior squad has also drawn criticism of sorts from Antonio Conte, duly released the United centre-half but, having missed the draw with Brazil on Tuesday, Jones has been ruled out of Newcastle United’s visit to Old Trafford. Continue reading...

Coming through hard times has made me stronger and wiser, says John Stones

• Defender in excellent form for club and country after last season’s troubles
• Stones now keen to pass on advice to younger team-mates with EnglandJohn Stones believes he has come through the most difficult period of his career and not only proved himself to be a talented defender but also a leader. Stones came under sustained criticism during his debut season at Manchester City having arrived from Everton for £47.5m in August 2016, but he has been excellent for Pep Guardiola’s side in this campaign and also impressed for England. Continue reading...

Gareth Southgate sees fearlessness and fitness as key to England’s ambitions

England manager wants his players to be mentally and physically ready for the World Cup in Russia and has liked what he has seen in the past weekGareth Southgate tells a story, going back to his playing days with England and his last unhappy involvement in a World Cup, that probably sums up why he goes into the four‑month gap before the next international break in a much more confident mood about the psychology of the modern team. Southgate was part of England’s World Cup squad in 2002 and an unused substitute on the day Ronaldinho’s free-kick sailed over David Seaman’s head to put Sven-Goran Eriksson’s team out of the tournament. The previous day, England had trained at the stadium in Shizuoka and Southgate started fearing the worst when the Brazilians arrived for their turn. Continue reading...

England’s World Cup wannabes: who should be on the plane to Russia? | Sachin Nakrani

We assess the performances of the 10 players who had most to prove in the games against Germany and Brazil and ask whether they should be in next summer’s squad No goals scored and only three shots on target – it is fair to say England’s displays in their two end-of-year, prestige friendlies against Germany and Brazil were less than sparkling. However, the occasions did allow Gareth Southgate to fully test his increasingly favoured 3-5-2 formation and allow a host of players, some new, some old, to stake their claim for a place in his squad for next summer’s World Cup. The Guardian looks at how the 10 with the most to play for fared. Continue reading...

England 0-0 Brazil: five talking points from the draw at Wembley | Sachin Nakrani

Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford impressed but there was bad news for Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Brazil showed intimidating solidity at the back Once again England lined up with a two-man attack, with the difference from the encounter with Germany being it was Marcus Rashford and not Tammy Abraham who started alongside Jamie Vardy. The 20-year-old had spoken prior to kick-off of his preference of being part of a strike partnership and he linked up well with Vardy. With Harry Kane to return, there is only one starting place available should Gareth Southgate persevere with a front two and, as such, potential candidates have to impress when given the chance. Vardy and Rashford both did that here and for the head coach that is no bad thing as he looks to keep his players on their toes ahead of World Cup squad selection. Continue reading...

Draw with Brazil gives England belief, says Gareth Southgate – video

Gareth Southgate says that his young England side can take plenty of belief from their goalless draw with Brazil on Tuesday night. The England manager also senses his team are repairing the relationship with fans following disappointing offerings in the two previous tournaments. ‘I think and hope that the English public have seen that these boys have given everything,’ says Southgate Continue reading...