Only one Manchester United player should start England's World Cup opener, says Sky pundit

Marcus Rashford would be the only Manchester United player to start England’s World Cup opener against Iran, if it was down to Paul Merson.

The 24-year-old looks back to his best under the tutelage of Erik ten Hag and the Manchester United academy graduate is showing signs of his formidable imperious form.

After enduring a miserable campaign last season, the 46-time England international has three goals and two assists from the opening 2022-23 six Premier League games.

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United’s number 10 is only two goals away from matching his entire tally from last season which saw him fail to score in any game for which he started.

Paul Merson would only start one Manchester United player in England’s World Cup opener against Iran

Having undergone shoulder surgery following last summer’s European Championships, Rashford hasn’t played for the Three Lions since missing a penalty in the shootout final defeat to Italy.

Gareth Southgate may have called-up the in-form star for this month’s Nations League games against Germany and Italy had the forward not picked up a muscle injury against Arsenal at the start of this month.

Nevertheless, despite not playing for England for well over a year once the World Cup starts in November, Sky Sports pundit Merson would take the pacey forward to Qatar.

Speaking in his Sky Sports column, the former Arsenal midfielder said: “I think Marcus Rashford should feel hard done by. If he wasn’t injured, I think he would have got into this squad and I think he’ll get into the final 26-man World Cup squad if he keeps doing what he’s doing.”

Merson would also start Rashford in a front three alongside Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane for England’s World Cup opener against Carlos Queiroz’s Iran.

However, while Merson believes that Rashford warrants a place in Southgate’s 26-man squad, the same cannot be said about United duo Luke Shaw and Jadon Sancho.

Shaw finds himself playing second fiddle to Tyrell Malacia currently for the Red Devils, but Sancho has started the season impressively and has already found the back of the net three times.

Merson added: “I don’t see Shaw making it to the World Cup. He needs to be playing football constantly, every week, and that’s not happening.

“I don’t see how he gets in for Qatar, especially looking at the number of full-backs we’ve got. That’s a position that we are blessed with. Why do you need him?

“People talk to me about Jadon Sancho, but he’s scored two Premier League goals and got no assists. He’s not ripping it up, and while he scored a good goal against Liverpool he’s in a queue of a lot of players in that position.”

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With Manchester United’s club captain Harry Maguire on the periphery at Old Trafford due to Ten Hag favouring Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez, Merson would start Manchester City duo Kyle Walker and John Stones ahead of the former Leicester City man at centre-back.

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Passionate Football fan that completed a NCTJ-accredited Diploma in Multimedia Sports Journalism in 2016.