Manchester’s Golden Boy – Marcus Rashford05/02/2019
Manchester United are known for producing some of football’s finest stars. Promoting players through their youth academy is an integral aspect of the club’s philosophy, and it is a tradition that has been carried out for almost a century. In fact, you would have to go back over 81 years to find a matchday squad where they haven’t named an academy graduate.
Fans have grown to become so accustomed in seeing young players being provided with the opportunity to make a name for themselves, but one prodigy continues to outshine them all – Marcus Rashford. Having made his debut back in 2016, the Englishman is not exactly a ‘new’ name in the starting line-up, but it is very easy to forget that he is just 21-years-of-age.
His game has recently been taken up a notch, now under the leadership of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and Rashford continues to be an influential figure to any younger players out there. He is Manchester’s golden boy.
From Grassroots to Old Trafford
Rashford’s story of his rise to the top is reminiscent of a fictional, football tale. In some cases, it feels like a script from the movie Goal! From first playing football on the Merseybank playing fields with Fletcher Moss FC, he was a boyhood United fan from birth and his path to stardom started off on these grassroots pitches. The club itself has seen the likes of Tyler Blackett and Ravel Morrison come through their ranks and their close affiliation with United helped Rashford become snapped up by the Red Devils in 2005.
The Englishman attended Ashton-Upon-Mersey high school during his youth career, with the Sale-based school being the home to the likes of Danny Welbeck, Adnan Januzaj and Andreas Pereira in the past. From an academy perspective, Rashford embarked upon a smooth journey for a young footballer, with United being a large part of his life at such a young age. However, the term ‘smooth’ does not do his introduction to the first team much justice.
On the 25th February 2016, Anthony Martial withdrew from United’s matchday squad against Midtjylland and Rashford was thrown into the starting XI after being scheduled to make the bench. Some fans comically hold this assist from the Frenchman as the most important in his United career.
Some scripts in football just write themselves and the young star provided the Old Trafford faithful with a night both they and he, will never forget. As the clock was approaching the 63rd minute, the Red Devils were trailing 3-2 on aggregate and they faced the prospect of a shock Europa League exit.
Cue Rashford. As Juan Mata fired the ball across the six-yard box, the Englishman drilled the ball home and became the club’s youngest goalscorer in Europe since George Best. Just nine minutes later, Rashford found himself in the right place at the right time again, and United sealed a historic comeback. History would quickly repeat itself only three days later, with the Englishman putting two goals past Peter Cech in a 3-2 victory over rivals Arsenal.
There could have been no better way to introduce yourself under the famous lights of Old Trafford, and Rashford delivered on the main stage in emphatic fashion. His introduction to the limelight set an exemplary model to all younger footballers out there – when your chance comes, take it with both hands.
Future is Bright With Ole at the Wheel
Rashford’s incredible story at his boyhood club now looks destined to continue, particularly with Solskjaer in charge. The ‘baby faced assassin’ has sang the forward’s praises since taking the hot-seat in December, with the manager having a significant impact on the Englishman’s development. Both the player and manager have formed a close relationship, as the duo also worked together during their time in the reserves.
It also appears that Rashford has been taking a leaf out Solskjaer’s book when it comes to his finishing. With six goals in eight games, the energetic forward has improved his goal to game ratio and is now flourishing in a more fluid system. The recent news regarding a new contract for the academy star has subsequently been welcomed with open arms by the Old Trafford faithful, who are keen to see Rashford commit his future to the club.
Next up for Solskjaer’s high-flying stars are Fulham away and, with the Cottagers struggling for points, United are heavy favourites at 8/13 with Betfred. The Norwegian is looking to extend his unbeaten run to eleven games in all competitions – can Rashford get on the scoresheet yet again?
A City United Together
Manchester City actually did their neighbours a favour over the weekend, with their 3-1 victory over Arsenal pushing United up to fifth place in the table. Champions League qualification is now the goal for the red side of Manchester, whilst the Blues remain hot on the heels of Liverpool in their chase for the title. Betfred now hold the Citizens as the outright favourites amongst the Premier League betting odds at 10/11, with Liverpool holding decent value at 11/10.
With the Merseyside club scheduled to visit Old Trafford at the end of the month, the city will undoubtedly be unified behind the reds, to prevent Liverpool getting their hands on their first ever PL trophy. If Rashford’s hot form continues, he could well have a significant impact on this title race. Come next season though, he will be hoping to mount his own title charge, to get United’s red ribbons back on the trophy for the first time since 2013.