Rashford has managed just one start and a total of 122 minutes in the Premier League this season, a situation that will not improve in the short term due to a three-game ban for butting Burnley’s Phil Bardsley.
In contrast, the 20-year-old found himself cast in the starring role for Southgate’s England over the past week, scoring both of the team’s goals against Spain and Switzerland and looking every inch an international-class forward.
Back at Old Trafford he will once again be vying for selection with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial but Southgate takes a pragmatic view of his situation.
“It’s not my business to interfere with club managers,” said the Three Lions boss.
“They have a difficult job to do and they have big squads at the top six, with huge competition for places.
“Jose thinks the world of Marcus. He’s a huge admirer of him, but he has got his job to do. There is huge competition for places at his club so you can understand that.
“I understand the difficulties that club managers have. They have to try and win matches. They have to rotate their squads.
“We really wanted to make Marcus feel important over this period. It was important especially to get him in the penalty box and remembering the areas he needs to be scoring goals from. His confidence will be boosted I’m sure, with two goals against top-quality opposition.”
Getting the ball in the back of the net for England has been the main problem for Raheem Sterling, who kept Rashford out of the starting team for most of the World Cup but could not convert bright performances into goals.
After Sterling missed the last two games through injury a straight swap in the England pecking order is not impossible but a tactical tweak that fits both in alongside Harry Kane is also under consideration.
“There is no reason why we can’t do that,” added Southgate.
“We have some good young players and have to find, moving forward, the best way to get them into the team in positions where they can have the most impact.”
While he takes a measured view of Rashford’s current place in Mourinho’s plans, the issue runs wider and deeper elsewhere.
Fabian Delph has yet to take the field for Manchester City this season, Ruben Loftus-Cheek has not started since returning to Chelsea, while Danny Rose and Danny Welbeck would both like to see more action on either side of the north London divide.
Southgate trusted all four enough to make them part of his World Cup squad in Russia but is clear about the fact they must become more involved before October’s Nations League double-header against Croatia and Spain.
“They understand it is difficult to pick players if we are seven, eight weeks into the season and they are not playing,” he said.
“I think they will because this month the League Cup, Europe League or Champions League football will start to fit in and even the biggest clubs will start to rotate a bit more. I am hopeful next month we have a slightly different situation.
“The problem we are faced with is do we pick lesser players who are up to speed or do we pick what we believe are the best players and accept that for some of the younger ones in particular they might have not had as much game time? We are going to have to assess that each time.”
Luis Enrique’s recast Spain laid down an early claim to be considered Euro 2020 favourites during an electric international break.
From the chaos of head coach Julen Lopetegui’s last-minute defection to Real Madrid and the subsequent elimination at World Cup 2018’s round of 16 under stand-in Fernando Hierro, a new team is emerging.
A double of impressive Nations League wins began with goals from Saul Niguez and Rodrigo in a come-from-behind 2-1 win at resurgent England.
Ominously for the rest of the continent, a 6-0 dismantling of global finalists Croatia – that featured five different scorers and an own goal – was to follow.
Here, Sport360° reviews a consequential fortnight for La Roja’s latest generation.
ENRIQUE MAKES HIS MARK
Spain’s latest supremo has been here before.
Enrique came to a Barcelona in 2014 still left in former team-mate Pep Guardiola’s thrall. An injection of aggression, pressing and directness added necessary edge to a glorious game plan built on technical superiority – nine major trophies followed in three seasons.
“There won’t be a revolution, rather an evolution. You can evolve a style of play without altering it, as I showed at Barcelona,” Enrique told a news conference upon his unveiling in July.
The 48-year-old was true to his word in the past fortnight.
Average possession in the World Cup per match was 69.2 per cent. This figure dropped slightly to 61.2 per cent in the Nations League.
Interceptions (8.5) and fouls per game (10) went up against England and Croatia, compared to the event in Russia (7.5/8.5).
Average passes per game dropped from 782.8 to 730.5, while the average number of long balls per game rose from 50.3 in Russia to 60.5.
A decrease in shots per game (6.3-5.5) can be attested to the superior strength of opponent in the Nations League.
Lopetegui’s preferred 4-3-3 formation remained. Enrique’s only tweak to the shape was a switch into 4-4-2 when defending.
The major contrast to the World Cup was the use of a ‘false nine’ in either Iago Aspas or Rodrigo. Whether this choice was forced by the late withdrawal of Diego Costa or ineffectiveness of Alvaro Morata will be seen in the matches to come.
Spain were sterile in Russia, infamously notching more than 1,100 harmless passes on the way to elimination by the hosts.
Do not expect this failure to be revisited by Enrique. Both England and Croatia experienced early joy. In a change to the summer’s proceedings, it didn’t last.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Transition is not a process that Enrique fears.
He was denied the services of David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique because of international retirement. Only three World Cup 2010 winners were left (Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets and the recalled Raul Albiol).
Huge calls then followed to leave out Koke and Jordi Alba.
Morata returned. Midfielders Dani Ceballos and Rodri and left-back Jose Luis Gaya were among those overlooked for the World Cup, but featured this time.
Anchorman Busquets was the only Barca star to start in either game.
Saul Niguez remained glued to the bench in the summer event. He notched Spain’s first goal against both England and Croatia.
Plus, as a player borne out of Enrique’s committed image, the Atletico Madrid midfielder is sure to symbolise this era.
Alongside him against England, Thiago Alcantara was a picture of refinement. An escape from Xavi and Iniesta’s shadows appears at hand.
Striker Rodrigo played just 23 minutes in Russia. He got two goals and an assist this fortnight, either stationed up top or on the right.
Forward Marco Asensio made one start at the World Cup. His sel-ection from the beginning against Croatia harvested three assists, one goal from 20 yards and another effort that rocked the crossbar. He’s a modern great in the making.
ALBA’S GONE FOR GOOD?
The headline omission by Enrique was Barca left-back Alba.
Rumours in Spain hint revenge being at play. The 29-year-old challenged team selection at Camp Nou – these things aren’t forgiven or forgotten.
Alba was one of few Spain players to emerge with any credit from the World Cup. On the evidence of this first international break, his debutant replacements aren’t without fault. Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso revelled in the space afforded to him at Wembley. His two crosses was the same number averaged by Alba in the summer. In the defence, howe-ver, issues emerged. He was nowhere to be seen for Marcus Rashford’s opener.
Gaya teed up Rodrigo for a goal ruled offside and saw Isco waste a glorious 30-yard pass. But he was not as ubiquitous as the effervescent Alba. On football alone, this appears a decision worth revisiting by Enrique.
Everton forward Richarlison was full of gratitude after he scored his first goals for Brazil in their 5-0 friendly thrashing of El Salvador.
Richarlison, 21, won a penalty in the second minute, which was scored by Neymar for his 59th Brazil goal. A double of fine finishes then followed, with the other goals scored by Philippe Coutinho and Marquinhos.
The £50 million summer signing from Watford was quizzed about his exploits after the game.
Watch his reply below: