Tuesday 31 May 2016

Rashford: From United debutant to Euro 2016 in 96 days

Marcus Rashford must still think he's dreaming after becoming England's youngest ever debut scorer and then getting a call-up to Roy Hodgson's final 23 for the tournament in France.

Rashford was named in England's 26-man squad two weeks ago but was not thought likely to make the final 23-man selection.
However, he scored three minutes into his full debut for the national team against Australia on Friday to make a compelling case for inclusion and, with Danny Welbeck's injury enforced absence coupled with doubts over Daniel Sturridge's fitness, Rashford is one of five strikers in Hodgson's squad.

But Rashford deserves his place in the squad and is there on merit. 

It was only 96 days ago that the 18-year-old Academy graduate made his United bow, in an otherwise unremarkable Europa League tie that catapulted the precocious youngster to overnight fame.

Anthony Martial's injury in the warm-up against Midtjylland gave Rashford his chance, he scored twice on both his European and Premier League debuts within days of each other and has never looked back since.

It's a remarkable rise for a player whose season started with a 1-1 draw at West Brom's training ground in an Under 18 fixture.

Rashford began to stamp his mark and turn heads in September, netting eight goals in six games as he was given European experience for Nicky Butt's Under 19 side before being made captain.

James Wilson had been loaned out and a crippling injury list led to a shock call-up to Louis van Gaal's first team bench as an unused sub for matches at Watford and Leicester in November shortly after he turned 18.

The noises kept on coming from inside the club and he scored his first goal for the second string in a 6-1 win over Leicester shortly before Christmas before two more strikes for the Under 21 elevated the youngster to a regular spot in Warren Joyce's outfit. 

Rashford played for the Under 18s in the opening months of 2016  (he was part of the side knocked out of the FA Youth Cup by Chelsea) in a campaign in which he intended to earn his stripes at reserve team level. 

On the night of Thursday 25 February 2016, however, the course of Rashford's career and life changed forever as Anthony Martial hobbles down the tunnel holding his hamstring after a warm-up injury ahead of United's last 16 second leg Europa Cup tie with Midtjylland.

Called into the starting line-up at the last, Rashford scores twice and then does so again on his league debut against Arsenal to kick-start a sequence of eight goals in 18 appearances including the winner against City, a pivotal strike at West Ham and a new four-year contract after a start in the FA Cup final.

Fast-tracked into Hodgson's senior set-up, Rashford's fairytale continues with a goal on his England debut and he's named in the final squad four days later. 

Whether he will get game time in France remains to be seen, but it's been one heck of a journey for the lad from Wythenshawe. 

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