“Marcus hasn’t done himself any harm in his performance last week. I’m sure Gareth would have liked him to have featured more from a Man United perspective but we know what a talent the boy is and he will certainly be a key factor if England are going to be successful in this World Cup. He has the ingredients to cause defenders a lot of problems – he’s a bit unknown to the world in that respect, as much as he’s playing for United – and I feel when you’re young and have that ‘don’t care’ attitude that can only be a plus.”

The 20 year old is one of a number of attacking options for Gareth Southgate who have all blazed a goal-scoring trail across the Premier League this season. A problem however lies in the fact that one of them – Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling – hasn’t scored for his country since 2015. Does this concern Yorke? Should it concern us? 

“The one thing he’s improved under Pep is his goal targeting. Everyone has a phase when they have a low in terms of goals and so it’s important what else that you do for your team i.e. winning games and being creative for others. Raheem in my opinion should be in the England line-up. He’s a threat and he’s shown he’s not scared. I thought he was one of the outstanding players for City this season. In fact I don’t see any reason why Raheem and Marcus Rashford can’t play in the same team. Why not unleash your best players?” 

It is a gung-ho attitude typical of a forward who played in one of the most adventurously attacking Premier League sides in the modern era. Prior to his highly successful spell at Manchester United of course Yorke played for Aston Villa and lining up alongside him for several seasons was a player who now has the hopes of a nation on his shoulders. Will his ex-team-mate dare be so cavalier? 

“Only if it goes belly-up will he throw attackers on. If I was Gareth Southgate I’d say forget about what has happened these past few tournaments and all of the expectations and just do your thing. But knowing what Gareth is like after playing with him for four years he is Mr Reserved. He doesn’t take risks. He’s done a reasonable job and I’m pleased for him that he’s got the opportunity to manage the national team. He’s always had leadership qualities and that’s the one thing you’d associate him with. I hope he does well because he’s a personal friend of mine but at some stage he’ll come unstuck. He may have changed over the years, I don’t know, but….I like to see attacking football and Gareth Southgate as an individual is a little bit reserved. But he may get it right, you never know.” 

Doubts arise too over another instrumental figure in the England camp, namely the sometimes frustrating, other times brilliant Dele Alli. Yorke insists there is still some way to go before the Spurs midfielder can claim superstar status. 

“I’m not too sure the big four would touch Dele Alli right now. I think he still has some development to do. When he’s 24 we’ll know if he’s capable and he still has a year or two left at Tottenham. Of course he may have an outstanding World Cup and anyone who has an outstanding World Cup sees their value go up and all the big boys want you. So this is where he could step up and he’s got the perfect platform to do that. If not though there will be another two years before we see the best of him. He’s certainly done himself no harm but to get the big boys attracted to him – based on what he’s done so far – he needs to do a little bit more.”

As for England’s chances in Russia the popular former striker and present day pundit is hardly optimistic. 

“We were excited four years ago when we thought we were going to do well and look how that ended. This time they’ve got an easy start which is a plus. Imagine if we had Belgium in the opening game and what would have happened.”  


“This team doesn’t compare to the recent attacking team that had Rio and Scholes and Becks and Gerrard – are these players as good as those? Can Henderson lace Gerrard or Scholes’ boots? When you think of the calibre of players England have had in recent World Cups and not been able to produce and now they have this young, fresh group who are not comparable. If you could have Wayne Rooney at Harry Kane’s age who would you choose? You would have Gerrard over Henderson and Scholes instead of Dele Alli. I just can’t see England doing great to be fair, which is a shame because of what they bring to the table with their fans and the Premier League football seen around the world. At best though they will just get through their group.”


Mention of Harry Kane leads the conversation towards the possibility of the Three Lions skipper winning the tournament’s Golden Boot. Unfortunately, Yorke believes the armband might actually prove to be Kane’s undoing. 


“To grab the Golden Boot you have to get to the semi-final or final and I don’t think England are good enough to get to either of them. I would have that doubt about Kane based on that. I’ve also seen the stats and what it takes to be a captain – the responsibility, energy and focus – and he doesn’t need all of that. At 24 you need to be free: f*** me you need to be playing and not having to do press conferences and manager meetings and all the rest of it. It ends up taking its toll and we saw that with Shearer and Wayne when they got the armband – their goal ratio went the other way. That might be a trend and maybe it takes a lot out of you being a captain? Maybe one day but you don’t need that at 24 even if it looks pretty on the arm and you get all of the accolades.”


Why then does the Tobagonian believe that he was bestowed with the honour? 

“Southgate had a dilemma because of the uncertainty about Jordan (Henderson) who I don’t see bossing midfields. He doesn’t give you that wow pass. It’s just simple graft, graft. That can only take you so far.”

Moving away from England matters to a domestic transfer window that has already blown wide open and it is fair to suggest that United fans will be watching Paul Pogba link up superbly with Antoine Griezmann at the World Cup and weep with frustration at the likelihood of the Atletico hotshot imminently moving to Barcelona. Yorke however suspects that the Reds’ long-term chase is not over just yet. 

“When you’re a big club you always have a chance and when you have friends of the player around the national team there is a way of selling the club. I’m sure it helps to have Pogba and Martial in there and that might be a turning point in making things happen and getting the deal done.”

“Hopefully that will be the case. Griezmann has been in Spain for a long time while United are looking to improve”.

As are so many of the big clubs this summer with the World Cup acting as a glittering shop window for the richest to pick and choose from. Yorke insists however that for Jose Mourinho the best buy lies on a beach somewhere presumably a long, long way from Russia.

“United and Jose don’t need to look at the World Cup. No player suits us more than Gareth Bale.  Yes there will always be some exciting candidates to look at but Bale is someone who excites me. He is the right age, in his prime, and will be the perfect addition.”


Dwight Yorke’s quickfire questions


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