England: Gareth Southgate hits out at 'disrespectful' Manchester United links

England: Gareth Southgate hits out at 'disrespectful' Manchester United links

Gareth Southgate says he has no time for the “completely disrespectful” speculation linking him with the Manchester United job, as he prepares his injury-ravaged England side to face Brazil tomorrow night.

On Friday evening, Southgate confirmed that Harry Kane, Jordan Henderson and Cole Palmer will all miss the friendly, adding their names to a lengthy absentee list for what is the penultimate fixture before the England boss names his squad for this summer’s European Championship.

It has been a complex build-up to the Wembley clash, with a row over the redesigned St. George’s cross on England’s new kit spilling onto the front pages and into the corridors of Westminster, while reports have claimed new Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has Southgate as a leading candidate to take the helm at Old Trafford this summer, with Erik Ten Hag’s future in serious doubt.

“I think there are two things,” Southgate said, when asked about the links. “One is I’m the England manager. I’ve got one job, which is to try and deliver a European Championship and before that, two important games this week.

“The second thing is Manchester United have a manager and I always think it’s completely disrespectful when there’s any speculation about a manager that’s in place. I’m president of the League Managers’ Association so I don’t have any time for that sort of thing, really.”

Southgate, who has been in charge of the national side since 2016, is due to be out of contract at the end of the year and has repeatedly said he will delay any decision over his future until after Euro 2024.

“My focus is the European Championship,” he added. "If we did something in terms of a contract before, everyone would say: ‘Why are you signing a contract before a Euros, where you’ve got to prove yourself?’.

“I’m certainly not going to speak to anybody else ahead of that, I never have. I’ve been here eight years in the job and I wouldn’t entertain speaking to anybody else while I’m in a job.”

Southgate’s plans to test his strongest XI against Brazil have been scuppered by raft of injuries, with Bukayo Saka pulling out of the squad earlier this week and the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw, Reece James and Jack Grealish all already sidelined.

There is still hope that Henderson and Palmer could be fit enough to play some part in England’s second game of the break, against Belgium at Wembley on Tuesday, but Southgate rated captain Kane as “extremely doubtful” for that fixture.

In the Bayern Munich star’s absence, Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins and Brentford forward Ivan Toney are set to be handed rare opportunities to impress, in what could prove a straight shootout for a Euros spot, with Southgate unsure whether he will be able to accommodate both in his final 23-man squad.

“That is the decision we will have to make,” he explained. “Clearly, a No9 is a specialist position and they have different attributes. It would depend a bit on injury status in other positions in the squad and also on having players who can play in more than one role.

“Both of them are aware that the opportunity is a big one. They’re both in good form, they’ve both had time with us. Ollie’s been with us more recently of course, has done well in the games he’s played and had a fabulous season with his club.

“Ivan, since he’s come back into Brentford’s team has had the impact we’d expected him to. They’re two very, very good players.”