Rashford feeling close to his best again
Marcus Rashford is taking aim at Wales in Tuesday's World Cup clash and admits he feels like he is returning to his best form.
The Manchester United forward is free of any injury niggles as he bids to impress on the big stage, having scored his first goal at the planet's greatest tournament, when converting in style during the 6-2 win against Iran.
Rashford also came off the bench in the disappointing 0-0 draw with USA on Friday and is hoping for more minutes as Gareth Southgate's men prepare to tackle their neighbours, with Group B concluding on Tuesday night (19:00 GMT kick-off).
November 28, 2022
"Obviously, it's been good for me," he said at a press conference. "To be honest, I'm just happy to be enjoying my football and not struggling with any injuries or niggles. I can only be thankful for that. I'm raring to go, training has been good and it's been good for me to meet back up with the lads, being away from them for such a long period of time. So, yeah, I'm ready.
"I feel like I'm getting there [back to my best]. Obviously, I'm a lot closer than I was in the last year or 18 months, so, you know, I feel like I'm still working towards it. But I'm pleased with the steps I've taken so far.
"It's probably [down to my] happiness. A lot of it was linked to my injuries I was carrying. Even on good days for myself, and good days for the team, when I had those injuries, I wasn't enjoying it. I was always in pain and obviously knew what the end goal was going to be. It was difficult to manage but, once I had the surgery, I could properly put it behind me and move forward. That's what I've been doing."
Rashford feels criticism of England for the performance against USA did not take into account how well the Americans defended.
The Three Lions are still in a very strong position to not only qualify but top the group, as only defeat by four goals or more would deny Southgate's side a place in the next round.
"For me, any game in a World Cup is a big game," he said of the Wales clash. "So we're going to go there and give everything to win the game. We tried to do that, obviously, against USA but I thought they defended really well and their midfield worked tremendously hard to stop our players. They made it difficult for us and we couldn't quite get a goal so that makes it more important to win this game.
"As players, we always want to play our best football but it's not possible. You can't always play the best football, you have to learn to win games, when you're not playing well. Like I said, it's unrealistic you're going to be the best team and the best individual on the pitch in every single game.
"So, you know, we're obviously not happy with the way we performed in the last game, we know we can do better. At the same time, we're in a strong position in the group, it's not often teams win all three games in the group games so, if we manage to beat Wales, which we're looking to do, it can be considered as a good start."
The homegrown Red was naturally thrilled to score in the opening win over Iran, as he targets more memorable moments out in Qatar.
"Obviously, it was a great feeling just to pull on the England shirt again," he said. "Something I've missed out on since the Euros. So the initial feeling of meeting up with the lads, training and being around them in the hotel and then getting back out on the pitch were all great feelings. The goal just capped everything off.
"I'm really happy I'm here again. It was a great feeling [to score]. When you're on the bench, you want to get involved in the game as quickly as possible and, probably for any player but especially for forwards, the best way to do that is to score a goal so, when actually the opportunity came so quickly, it was beautiful."