Marcus Rashford has been something of a revelation for Manchester United supporters this season.
Just as the club began to free-fall, the 18-year-old striker grabbed his opportunity with both hands, saving United first in the Europa League, and then against Arsenal in the Premier League.
And just last week, the youngster made his England U20 bow, but it wasn’t a dream debut as the Young Lions fell to a surprise 2-1 defeat to Canada.
England were defeated by two superb goals that they could do little about, and despite setting up the England strike, the result shows that Rashford needs to be eased into first team action rather than being thrown in at the deep end.
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Many had called for an instant promotion to the England U21’s but Keith Downing made the correct call, keeping the Manchester-born striker in the U20’s. And it looked about the right level for him. After a blistering start for Manchester United, this was a reality check for Rashford, who didn’t outshine his England colleagues.
The Manchester United starlet was the centre of attention, and it seemed that many who were in attendance at Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium had come to get a glimpse of the future.
Rashford wasn’t poor by any means but the game showed he still has a lot to learn and that the youth set-up can provide the striker with the skills needed to reach the top.
He was tightly marked all game and it seems like the Canadians knew he was the man to watch. After all, he’d made a dream start to his United career and he was hustled and harried all game. It’s difficult for young shoulders to carry so much expectancy, with many United and England U20 fans now expecting Rashford to bang in goal after goal every week.
But that is part of the learning process. He will be marked closely in the future and suddenly he’s now in an England shirt and the expectancy levels have shot through the roof. His development will continue and it will suit both Manchester United and England.
Rashford needs that time to settle and find his feet. His “rags to riches” story isn’t uncommon in modern football but he needs to remain grounded. There is little doubt that England U20’s manager Keith Downing will keep the 18-year-old on his toes, alongside club manager Louis van Gaal.
And an unexpectedly busy season could become even more hectic for Rashford in the coming months, as he’s expected to take part in the Toulon Tournament in France at the end of July, which could potentially clash with the FA Cup final if United overcome West Ham and Everton.
The U19 European Championships are also happening this summer, and should England qualify, there is little doubt Rashford could be involved.
But he needs to remain grounded and focused. He’s been thrown into the limelight which is great for him, but he’s still a long way to go.
Patience is required.