At just 21 years of age, Marcus Rashford has proven in his short, but substantial career that he is the jewel in the crown of both Manchester United Football Club and English football. While his fellow compatriots are being heralded for featuring from time to time at big clubs, Rashford is the starting No.9 for arguably the biggest club in the world. However, to understand the prodigy’s rise to prominence, it is important to delve deep into where it all began.
Born and raised in Wythenshawe, a district just south of Manchester, Marcus Rashford was quickly put on the right path joining Fletcher Moss Rangers, the same academy which produced the likes of Jesse Lingard, Wes Brown Danny Welbeck, Ravel Morrison and Tyler Blackett. He then joined the United academy at the age of 7 and has been plying his trade in the red half of Manchester since then.
During his formative years, Rashford’s idol was the iconic striker, Ronaldo-The “Fenomeno”. The first game young Marcus saw was United v Real Madrid in the 2003 Champions League quarter-final in which Ronaldo bagged a hattrick and was consequently given a standing ovation from both fans. Rashford has openly admitted his admiration for the legendary striker, saying “He always played free, no matter where he was playing he played free, went out there and expressed himself. When you do that, that’s when you’re playing your best football“. Fast forward to February 2016, the month in which the youngster went on to score in his Europa League and Premier League debut (a brace against Arsenal) at the tender age of 18. And just under a month later, Rashford sealed the Manchester Derby with a mazy solo goal, which may have just left a smile on his idol’s face.
Louis van Gaal, the boss who gave him his debut for the Red Devil’s first team was gushing over Rashford’s instant success at the top level.
“It is unbelievable when you are 18 years old and you come in. I can understand it like Thursday against Midtjylland because you are coming in without pressure. But the second time is more difficult and he played a very good match. The things I asked of him- He scores again, 4 goals in 2 matches! That is an average that is unusual.” – Louis van Gaal on Rashford’s blistering start in senior football
Rashford was sending shockwaves across the football world after his electric start after putting his name in the record books as the 3rd youngest scorer for United in Premier League history behind Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck. He wrapped up the season with an impressive 8 goals in 18 appearances. Perhaps, the biggest surprise in his incredible breakout year was a call up the national team for the Euros. Rashford ended up appearing twice in the tournament, one of which against the shock defeat to Iceland. The Mancunian stole the headlines for dribbling past 3 opponents in just 4 minutes of action, more than any other of his teammates did in the entirety of the 90 minutes which caused the public to criticise Roy Hodgson’s tactics on failing to introduce him earlier on to the pitch.
Rashford’s key strengths and attributes revolve mainly around his versatility in the attacking third and it’s quite clear that his role as a number 10 in the youth academy is still embedded in his game. His most potent ability is to drift across the centre of the pitch to either of the wings in order to create space for his teammates or for himself to run into and receive the ball. Subsequently, he uses his rapid pace to change the dynamic of the game and surprise the opposition defenders. Along with his supreme physical attributes, his vision and footballing IQ are a class apart from most youngsters which helps Rashford to find space in key goal scoring positions, more often than not.
When Rashford is in full flow, he has a tendency to try pulling off cheeky tricks and skills to appease the crowd and give them a reason to cheer, especially considering the dire football United have been playing since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure. Along with other youngsters like Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard, Rashford symbolizes the iconic fast paced, direct and exciting form of attack Old Trafford is used to seeing since the advent of the Premier League. His versatility is a great asset for the Three Lions as well and it is really is an exciting prospect to see him with the other young lions making names for themselves and we may just see the true golden generation of English Football in the coming years.
One area of his game that needs polishing, is his ability in the air. One could argue he more than makes up for it with his other skills but if he wants to grow into potentially the best in the world in his position, he really needs to be the complete package. He is also often criticized for fading away in games and not involving himself much if he’s not really in the thick of a game.
However, we expect him to improve as he matures and grows as an individual. People often forget how young he still is because of how exciting his breakthrough was. The most concerning factor about Rashford is the possibility of burning himself out at a young age and all the pressure taking a toll on his body earlier than it should due to his explosive style of play. Case in point, Wayne Rooney. Having said that, if he is able to recreate even half of Rooney’s exploits in a United jersey, rest assured, United fans will have a player of supreme quality in their books for years to come.
An impressive aspect about this young boy is his knack of turning up when it really matters. Being in the right place at the right time and showing up for the big games as he showcased in his brilliant display against Spurs, with a well-taken goal which gave substance to United’s resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This icy mindset transcended to his performances for the national team as well, most notably when he buried his spot-kick in the shootout against Columbia in the round of 16 at the World Cup last year.
A brace against Liverpool last season and his breakout games against Arsenal and Manchester City have put him in United folklore already and big things are expected after having already set such high standards for himself to compete with. His link-up play with fellow attackers and academy graduates Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard has been a joy to watch over the past month. The thought of them running at defenders in the coming years is a mouth-watering prospect for the United faithful.
The manner in which Rashford has risen to the challenge of leading the line for Manchester United is a stark indicator of the steely determination and potential that the boy possesses. The world is Marcus Rashford’s oyster, and he’s only just begun.
Rashford vs Arsenal Image via Sky Sports
Rashford vs Spurs Image via upi