Marcus Rashford reaffirmed his status as one of the brightest prospects in English football with two goals in Manchester United’s Carabao Cup victory over Burton Albion. The 19-year-old netted twice in the opening 17 minutes at Old Trafford on a comfortable evening for the home side. United were ‘only’ up against a Championship outfit, but Rashford’s all-round performance really caught the eye and offered another insight into his precocious talent.
Such has been his rise to prominence that is is easy to forget Rashford is still a teenager. He is also well beyond his tender years in terms of football intelligence. Rashford has always had electrifying pace and the ability to beat opponents, but now he is picking out the correct pass more often. It’s come with the experience of playing Premier League football for managers who trust him; first it was Louis van Gaal and now, Jose Mourinho.
Rashford’s two goals were very different, but each one highlighted his qualities as a finisher. For the first, he showed great composure and presence of mind to dink the ball over the onrushing keeper. The second was more about instinct and knowing where the goal was. After receiving the ball 25 yards out, Rashford swivelled and unleashed a fierce shot that cannoned in off the post. Both times, Burton stopper Connor Ripley had no chance.
Many thought the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season, and Romelu Lukaku this, would stunt Rashford’s development after he had burst onto the scene in such spectacular fashion. But Mourinho clearly sees the youngster, who is keeping players such as Anthony Martial out of the side, as a key figure for United. It is the same with England where Rashford, born and bred in Manchester, has become a fixture in the starting XI. In fact, it is hard to imagine the line-up without him.
His goal against Slovakia in the recent World Cup qualifier was one of six he has scored in all competitions – both domestically and internationally – this season. They have come from just 10 appearances and in the vast majority of those he has played on either the left or right of a front three. This versatility can sometimes count against Rashford who, first and foremost, is a goalscorer, but it is enabling him to get more game time.
Sometimes we are afraid to build up English youngsters for fear that they will not fulfil their promise. But Rashford has all the attributes required to be a top-class footballer for United and England. His development is progressing at a rapid pace and comparisons with Kylian Mbappe, the Paris Saint-Germain wonderkid, are not wide of the mark.