Is this Man United sensation the next Rooney? Or another Macheda?

Louis van Gaal’s decision making surrounding Manchester United’s strikers this season has been nothing short of baffling at times.

Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez were both allowed to leave Old Trafford in the summer and young rising star James Wilson has been farmed out on loan. As such, the Red Devils have been left short of options in the final third at times this season, and have been overly reliant on the two recognised centre-forwards of international calibre in their squad.

Wayne Rooney has not been at his mercurial best this season, but his recent injury has strained Van Gaal’s contingent further. Anthony Martial has made an impression since his move from Monaco in the summer, yet has also oddly been played out wide on most occasions.

However, one decision that Van Gaal must get credit for in regards to the club’s strikers has been to call to bring youngster Marcus Rashford into the first-team set-up.

The 18-year-old has been regarded as one of the club’s brightest prospects for some time, but few would have predicted the teenage starlet to make as much of an impression as he has. Rashford was given a chance to play in the Europa League against FC Midtjylland and scored a brace on his debut in a game Man United had to win. He followed this up with an incredible double against Arsenal, and also scored the only goal of the game as LVG’s charges claimed derby bragging rights at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City.

So staggering has Rashford’s rise been that former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has been campaigning for the youngster to get a senior international call-up.

Van Gaal has a prestigious list of players that he has given first-team debuts to, including the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Alaba. Rashford clearly has the potential to be a real star for United and it could be in a couple of years time that the club’s fans look back at the Dutchman’s reign and feel that introducing the emerging striker to the team was his best decision.

However, before getting too carried away, it is worth remembering that the youngster is still learning his trade and could yet turn out to be a player that drifts out of Premier League football.

Adnan Januzaj was being described as the next Ryan Giggs after an incredible short burst in the United team, but has since been reduced to fringe status.

For Federico Macheda the plight has been much worse, with the Italian going from a potential world-beater to a forgotten man in the space of a few of years.

Rashford has all the raw attributes to succeed and Van Gaal has been correct to introduce him to senior football at the time that he has.

However, before England fans get carried away and think they have a young Wayne Rooney on their hands, the teenager should be allowed the time he needs to develop to avoid following in Federico Macheda’s footsteps.