Jose Mourinho would rather in-form striker Marcus Rashford is not selected by Aidy Boothroyd for this summer's European Under-21 Championship in Poland, but accepts the decision is out of his hands. The Manchester United boss also believes that young defender Axel Tuanzebe could be called into action soon amid a centre-back injury crisis exacerbated by a potentially serious knee problem suffered by Marcos Rojo.
Rashford, who netted a hat-trick on his one and only appearance for the U21s in a 6-1 qualifying thrashing of Norway in September 2016, boasts eight senior caps for England, and Mourinho does not think it would make sense for him to take a step back after establishing himself as a full international.
"I don't want to go in that direction," he was quoted as saying by United's official website. "I just feel that, when a player reaches a certain level, it doesn't make a lot of sense to drop levels.
"It's like me putting him in our Under-23s to win, let's say, a derby against Man City. No? [Academy chief] Nicky Butt could play him in that game because of his age.
"So when you reach a certain level and you've reached it for a long time, I don't think it makes sense. But the power is in their hands."
Rashford had featured just once at U20 level before surpassing Tommy Lawton as England's youngest ever debutant scorer with a goal that came just three minutes into a friendly victory over Australia at the Stadium of Light in May 2016. Subsequently named in Roy Hodgson's squad for Euro 2016 as reward for a truly explosive start to his senior career at Old Trafford, he then succeeded club teammate Wayne Rooney as the youngest Three Lion to play at a European Championship by replacing Adam Lallana for the final 17 minutes of a last-gasp win over Wales.
A late cameo in a disastrous defeat to Iceland followed before Rashford was left out of the squad for Sam Allardyce's one and only game in charge, in Slovakia. That emphatic treble against Norway led to a swift return to the senior set-up, with former U21 coach Gareth Southgate calling him up for all four of his interim matches in charge against Malta, Slovenia, Scotland and Spain. He also appeared as a substitute in recent meetings with Germany and Lithuania.
Rashford is likely to take on a larger role at United between now and the end of the season with Zlatan Ibrahimovic possibly set to be sidelined for the rest of the season with a nasty knee injury. The former Fletcher Moss Ranger scored his first league goal since September in the recent 3-0 defeat of Sunderland and has now notched three in his last four games across all competitions, including an extra-time winner against Anderlecht that secured a place in the Europa League semi-finals.
Fellow academy graduate Tuanzebe was expected to represent England at next month's U20 World Cup, although, with Rojo now joining Chris Smalling and Phil Jones on the sidelines, Mourinho has hinted that he may not travel to Korea after all. The Bunia-born defender's only senior club appearance to date came as a substitute in January's FA Cup win over Wigan Athletic, but he may find himself thrust into the thick of the action sooner rather than later.
"We need absolutely everyone and I don't have to think about Axel Tuanzebe going to the Under-20 World Cup in Korea because maybe Axel has to come now," Mourinho added. "We need everybody."