Man United defender Phil Jones insists competition for places is England's strength

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Phil Jones is pleased with the fact that England’s starting XI is uncertain ahead of the World Cup.

The Manchester United defender believes it’s a sign of the squad’s strength in depth.

“Everyone in the 23-man squad wants to play and have done well enough this season to cement a starting place.

“That is testament to how good the players are in the England set-up. I am sure whoever will go out in the starting XI on the 18th against Tunisia will go out and put on a good performance.

“I suppose everybody is getting itchy feet and are ready to get on the plane and get out there.”

Jones will enjoy a couple of precious days with his newborn baby before rejoining England but insists his mind will be on the job at hand once the World Cup campaign begins.

Jones and wife Kaya welcomed daughter Alaria on May 31 but after being present for the birth he was soon back in thick of Gareth Southgate’s preparations at St George’s Park.

The Manchester United defender played 90 minutes as England beat Costa Rica at Elland Road and, after spending the weekend back with his growing family, he will be back among his team-mates and on the way to Russia on Tuesday.

It will be a wrench to leave but with a World Cup to play for, Jones never had any qualms.

“I can’t wait to get home and see her,” he said of his daughter.

“Every morning it just gives you a different purpose in life. I know it sounds like a cliche but you don’t realise that until it happens.

“She is great and my family will always come first but we have got a big tournament to prepare for.

“My wife knows – they all know – that this is what I do, this is what I enjoy doing and this is the biggest tournament in the world. I will manage it, I will be fine.”

Family plays a big part in Jones’ life, with father Mark in the stands to watch him at Elland Road and on hand afterwards with a few words of wisdom.

“He’s my biggest fan. He follows me everywhere up and down the country,” said Jones.

“He just wants me to go to out to enjoy it. A World Cup does not come round every day and he will be watching from back home for sure.”

Just eight months ago, Southgate stated during an international break that Jones was the best English defender he had.

Form and fitness are always liable to shift such judgements, not to mention a tactical switch to a back three, and the 26-year-old currently looks an outsider to make the first XI in Russia.

The national boss has been coy about naming his preferences in recent weeks but Kyle Walker and John Stones seem nailed on with Gary Cahill and Harry Maguire seemingly scrapping for the last place.

“It was nice when he said that about me, but football does not stand still and things move on. Hopefully I can keep improving,” he said.

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Man United star Paul Pogba is giving France boss Didier Deschamps 'no worries' despite poor form

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Paul Pogba has work to do to silence the France boo boys.

France boss Didier Deschamps insists he has “no worries” about the form of Paul Pogba ahead of the World Cup.

A lacklustre performance from midfielder Pogba in France’s warm-up friendly against Russia 2018 absentees Italy in Nice last week caused some concern.

Samuel Umtiti, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele scored for Les Blues at Allianz Riviera where Pogba was far from his best.

But Deschamps jumped to his defence on Friday, ahead of France’s friendly in Lyon on Saturday against the United States, another team who have been World Cup regulars but have missed out of qualifying this time.

He said of Pogba’s showing against Italy: “He knows it, I’ve spoken to him, that it wasn’t his best match, that’s for sure.”

But Deschamps added: “I know that we speak about Paul a lot. Effectively he’s a midfielder, he’s not a number 10, he’s not a forward. He can score and help others to score.

“He’s a complete midfielder, who can do everything. But he can’t do everything, there’s a nuance.”

Deschamps’ protection of the Manchester United midfielder, stressing he is a player with all the ability in the world but underlining he cannot be expected to run every match, may resonate with the former Juventus man.

Pogba has said he wants a starring role at the World Cup and Deschamps said “there are no worries” where he is concerned, although France will want the 25-year-old purring for their opening match at the tournament, which comes against Australia on June 16 in Kazan.

France were visited at their Clairefontaine training camp by president Emmanuel Macron this week, before making the journey to Lyon to step up their preparations.

French sports daily L’Equipe reported on its website that Pogba is expected to start the game against the United States, in a midfield trio behind the striking triumvirate of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud.

The US have lost all three of their previous matches against France and will do well to avoid another defeat.

Dave Sarachan’s young squad, with an average age of barely 23, are coming off a 2-1 defeat to the Republic of Ireland last weekend.

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Social media reacts to Marcus Rashford's wonder goal for England against Costa Rica

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Marcus Rashford starred for England against Costa Rica.

Manchester United youngster Marcus Rashford scored a wonder goal for England on Thursday night as the Three Lions saw off Costa Rica in a pre-World Cup friendly.

Coupled with a Ronaldinho-esque bit of skill, Rashford’s goal-scoring exploits and an all-around excellent display earned him Man of the Match honours in the 2-1 win.

Social media was abuzz from the moment he scored, with the reactions flowing in even a day later.

Roll on Russia 💫 #ThreeLions

A post shared by Marcus Rashford (@marcusrashford) on

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