Manchester United forwards Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were Thursday left out of Gareth Southgate’s England squad for friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast. Southgate also omitted Manchester City defender Kyle Walker from his 25-man group for the games at Wembley on March 26 and March 29.
Rashford has struggled with form and fitness at Old Trafford this season but Sancho has started to play to the standard that persuaded United to spend £73 million ($95 million) on the winger last year.
Walker is another surprise omission, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James the two right-backs included in the squad as England start to build towards the World Cup in Qatar later this year.
Speaking about Sancho, Southgate said: “There are other attacking players in our squad who are ahead of him in our opinion. Jadon, in the last few weeks, his performances have improved, but it is an area of the pitch where we have competition for places.
“With Marcus, he is in the same position as everyone else — whether they are in the squad or not they all have to play well in the next period. It is a difficult time for him, he is clearly not at his best.
“There is plenty of time. We know about Marcus, we know what he can bring to us.”
The England boss, whose team reached the final of Euro 2020 last year, said he did not expect Chelsea’s players to be affected by the sanctions imposed on the club’s owner Roman Abramovich, which include an asset freeze at Stamford Bridge.
Defender James and midfielder Mason Mount have both been selected for the upcoming matches.
“In the life of a footballer there are always distractions,” said Southgate. “Your role is to focus on what you can control and that is the way you train and prepare.
“Everything else is outside of your control. You have to play as well as you can.
“They haven’t called me. What is happening at Chelsea isn’t my business, but football clubs will go on. Unless there is gross mismanagement, football clubs survive.”
Ben White is back in the squad following a fine run of form at Arsenal and Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi has received a first call-up.
Nick Pope returns in place of Sam Johnstone as one of three goalkeepers, while Declan Rice and James Ward-Prowse also earned recalls.
Injuries ruled out Ben Chilwell and Kalvin Phillips, with Luke Shaw not only the sole Manchester United player in the squad but also the only recognised left-back.
Goalkeepers:Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale
Defenders:Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Coady, Marc Guehi, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Ben White
Midfielders:Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher, Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse
Forwards:Tammy Abraham, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Raheem Sterling