In the midst of Manchester United’s worst Premier League season ever, manager Louis van Gaal may have uncovered a gem for the future in 18-year-old Marcus Rashford.
After netting twice in his Manchester United debut against FC Midtjylland on Thursday, the Manchester native backed up his superb debut with a further two goals against league rivals Arsenal on Sunday.
United would win the game 3-2, largely thanks to Rashford who was sensational for the Red Devils. He now has four goals and an assist in two games for the club, as he takes full advantage of injuries to Wayne Rooney, Will Keane and Anthony Martial.
Only time will tell whether he can keep up this level of play, but for the moment he has become the talk of the Premier League and here’s everything you need to know about him.
Born and raised in Wythenshawe, Manchester, Rashford began playing for local club Fletcher Moss Rangers at the age of six before joining the Manchester United academy at the age of seven.
As a kid, Rashford excelled in football from a young age and attracted the attention of several Premier League clubs, including local rivals Manchester City and the then David Moyes-led Everton.
The prodigious youngster was reportedly turned away from Manchester City’s academy at a young age because he was deemed too small, while Everton also pursued the player, but were turned down because of Rashford’s parent’s desire for Marcus to remain in Manchester.
“He had a couple of teeth missing at the front,” Fletcher Moss chairman Ron Jamieson told the Manchester Evening News.
“We played a couple of home games and two or three looked half decent but with Marcus, it was the way he actually moved the ball around the pitch.
“He was quite confident moving the ball but the thing that struck me more than anything was the way he could strike a ball, and for a six-year-old to break past a player and then hit the back of the net with such accuracy, I have never seen a kid strike a ball as well at his age – and he did it time and time again.
“As well as taking players on for a youngster, there was just something about him. It was always a spectacular goal. His interest in football just stood out. He made goals as well as scored goals.
“If Marcus got his chance he would be a star and it’s proved to be right.”
According to the Telegraph, Jamieson has worked previously as a scout for Manchester City but is now retained by United, while Fletcher Moss treasurer Dave Horrocks also works as a United academy coach, with both men tracking Rashford’s development throughout his youth career.
While at Fletcher Moss, Rashford played in the same youth side as current United teammate Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.
Fletcher Moss has also produced fellow and former United players Ravel Morrison, Danny Welbeck, Wes Brown, Jesse Lingaard, Borthwick-Jackson and Tyler Blackett.
Jamieson estimates that the club have up to 29 former players involved in the current United system at some level.
With United Youth Sides
Rashford first broke into United youth sides as a schoolboy, where former United youth coach Paul McGuinness noted his incredible growth as a player.
“From the start of the season to now, he’s made big strides,” McGuinness told manutd.com back in 2014.
“Quite a few players have but Marcus was one of those we were talking about. Last year, he played as a schoolboy up at Newcastle and we said afterwards: ‘You just didn’t know how hard it is to play at this level and play professional football, and how much you have to give yourself physically’.
“He didn’t realise what this football was about – he felt it was nice to get hold of the ball and play but didn’t realise you’ve got to run up, run back and do all that running. Now he has mentally turned a corner and was making some fantastic runs down the channel and over the top in the previous games and putting in a lot of work.”
Rashford has since been a revelation for United’s U-18 side scoring six goals in eleven Premier League Under-18 games this season, while also bagging a double in the UEFA Youth League against PSV Eindhoven and a penalty against Wolfsburg.
He has netted three times for the Under-19s in the UEFA Youth League this season and was also the top scorer in last season’s Under-18 side with 13 goals.
He built on his strong performances in the 2014/15 season and scored in every one of his games in September last year, netting eight times in six games over the month.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 25, 2016
He was promoted to the United U-21s in December and grabbed his first goal for Warren Joyce’s side in United’s 6-1 win over Leicester at the end of last year.
The future looks very bright for Rashford, with Van Gaal labelling the young striker as a ‘fantastic’ talent, and that he thought Rashford’s performance against Arsenal was even better than his debut against Midtjylland on Thursday.
Rashford will likely continue to lead United’s frontline so long as Rooney and Martial are sidelined, but when asked about where Rashford’s debut ranks for him among the all-time great first time performances, the Dutchman put the 18-year-old in with some very elite company.
“Patrick Kluivert makes the winning goal (for Ajax) in the Super Cup in the Netherlands. Xavi, fantastic against I think Valladolid (for Barcelona) and also Thomas Muller a fantastic debut,” Van Gaal told Sky Sports after the game.
“It’s unbelievable when you are 18 years old and you come in. I can understand it like last Thursday against Midtjylland because you are coming in and you do your thing without any pressure.
“But the second time is more difficult and he played a very good match. The things I asked of him, he scores again – four goals in two matches – that is an average that is unusual!
“You get a chance and you have to perform, you have to do the things that we are asking. I have always said it is not a matter of age, it is a matter of quality and he shows it.”
United’s next game will come at home to Watford on Wednesday where Rashford will look to continue his goalscoring spree as United look to close in on newly-crowned League Cup winners and rivals Manchester City in fourth place.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena
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