There’s a very good reason why Marcus Rashford has been cropping up constantly when talk has turned to the England national team. The Manchester United striker may be young, but is currently one of the most electrifying young English talents available to national team boss Sam Allardyce. Having failed to select him for the senior side, the sight of Rashford notching a hat-trick for the under-21s midweek against Norway was a stark reminder of the 18-year old’s talent.
It came as a surprise then, that when Jose Mourinho dropped Anthony Martial for Saturday’s game against Manchester City that the Portuguese coach decided to start Jesse Lingard ahead of him. The 23-year old is a dependable option on the wing, but possesses nothing like the finesse, attacking instinct or level of finishing that Rashford has in his locker. Add in the fact that Lingard had just recovered from injury and was starting against a very adept City side, the decision makes even less sense.
Rashford showed why he deserved to start with his second half performance. It was full of the sort of direct running and dribbling that United had lacked in the first half, and offered a different option and test for Bacary Sagna on the left flank. Admittedly, City closed down United’s attacks relatively well as the game wore on, but Rashford offered more than enough in terms of spontaneity and creativity to suggest that leaving him out of the line-up was a mistake. Indeed, had Zlatan Ibrahimovic not meddled with his shot from an offside position, Rashford may have bagged an equaliser.
As evidenced by scoring in this fixture at the Etihad Stadium last season, Rashford can handle the big occasions. He can deal with pressure and he can create goals and chances through sheer force of will. His wonderful strike against West Ham United in an FA Cup replay last season, dancing between several defenders and curling a shot into the top corner with a tiny amount of space to work with was an excellent example of his talent, and his fearless streak is quickly making him one to watch now.
United’s fixture list is about to become very crowded, with a trip to Feyenoord on Thursday kicking off this season’s Europa League campaign before heading off to Vicarage Road for a Premier League meeting with Watford three days later. Rashford should start on Thursday, no problem, and if he continues this impressive form, he’s likely to give Mourinho plenty of food for thought.