Marcus Rashford. A teenager living the dream all 18-year-old boys with a love and passion for football share. In the coming weeks, he will represent his national team at a major competition after a breakout season for one of the greatest clubs in the world. It cannot get any better than that.
I, personally, was a strong supporter of bringing the timeless Jermaine Defoe to Euro 2016 for England after he carried a sub-par Sunderland side on his back and saved them from the drop. However, his absence in return for fresh-faced Rashford’s inclusion is not one I am enraged over.
Although there are unsurprising doubts over the selection of a vastly-inexperienced striker to the Euros over other decent options, it would be incredibly daft to completely disregard Rashford’s end-of-season form and call him unproven. The boy has as strong of a case to be included as any.
By no means is the striker the finished article, but the emerging news of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s expected arrival at Old Trafford can only come as a blow for a boy that grew up watching the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville, and Nicky Butt among others thrive in development. Those men were under a ginormous amount of pressure and expectation which Rashford recently got more than just a taste of in the closing months of the 2015/16 season.
One point that may hurt Rashford’s starting appearances is that incoming gaffer José Mourinho, notoriously, has next to no faith in applying trust in the youth. You could count the number of teenagers the Portuguese has regularly started with both hands and I wouldn’t be surprised if you had digits to spare.
On top of that, Mourinho applies a strict one-up-top policy into his teams even when he has more than one top-quality striker. As a result, it is difficult to envisage – unless there’s a dramatic change of thinking – that Rashford, Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney and Ibrahimovic will all be part of United’s 2016/17 starting XI plans. Rashford will probably be the one to miss out with Rooney and Martial playing out of their traditional positions.
Don’t get me wrong. While bringing in a name like Zlatan Ibrahimovic may hurt the development of Rashford in some ways, it is the furthest thing from detrimental for a football team. We really should be seeing Zlatan in the twilight days of his career, but it just hasn’t happened. This should be a move similar to his compatriot Henrik Larsson, who had an impact role with United for a few months as his absolutely phenomenal career came to a conclusion. Ibrahimovic would also be a stellar signing for a team that lacked goals at vital times last season.
Signing a superstar who is still at the top of his game like Zlatan and spending 50 million plus on a teenager in the form of Anthony Martial are both unprecedented for Manchester United though. The usual protocol would be to invest faith in a youth prospect that has shown the capability to make the step up, but it seems those days could be coming to an end.
If Mourinho can find a way to juggle his options to suit all parties involved, maybe Rashford can have an equal piece of input on United’s attacking fortunes next year. But one thing is for sure, this new era will be one that nobody who has watched United will have ever seen before and will show stark contrasts in style and business to the Fergie glory years of the past.
Brein McGinn, Pundit Arena