Marcus Rashford, cancel your summer plans for you are surely heading to Euro 2016. At the turn of the year anyone to suggest such a story would have been laughed out of any room, but in a year packed full of fairytales within English football, the teenage striker continues to write his own feel-good story.
Handed his Three Lions debut from the start against Australia, the Manchester United forward needed just 135 seconds to open his international account with a delightfully controlled volley after Raheem Sterling’s cross was only half-blocked. The finish belied the 18-year-old’s tender years and proved to Roy Hodgson once and for all that he is more than a viable option to be selected in England’s 23-man squad for the summer tournament.
Even Wayne Rooney, whose last hope of playing as a striker in France arguably rests on whether Rashford is afforded a seat on the plane, could only smile watching on from the bench. He – along with the majority of supporters inside the Stadium of Light – is now convinced of Rashford’s talents. Hodgson is the man with the final call, but even he must now be struggling to come up with a reason not to take the United frontman to France.
It is ironic that Rooney too made his debut against the Socceroos after a rapid rise to the top in the Premier League, and Rashford has shown in his 19 senior starts that he has the ability to one day challenge his current club and international captain to become his country’s record goalscorer. He is now the youngest England player to find the net in his first appearance, and it is clear we are witnessing the emergence of a special talent. Jose Mourinho may not have the greatest record in giving youth players a chance to shine, but on the day he was unveiled as the new man in charge at Old Trafford he cannot have failed to have noted the starlet’s goalscoring exploits.
Though he remains a raw talent rather than the finished product – highlighted by his failure to control a through-ball from Sterling with the goalkeeper at his mercy midway through the first half – his eye for goal and ability to rise to the big occasion is something that can no longer be ignored. Goals against Midtjylland, Arsenal and Manchester City only highlights his fearlessness. A strike three minutes into an England debut adds further proof to the belief that nothing will phase him.
Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy remain Hodgson’s first-choice strikers, and Rashford’s goal is unlikely to change the former Liverpool boss’s mind in that regard, but his worth in coming off the bench when England need a goal most far outweighs the requirement for an extra central midfielder. The Three Lions have been guilty of playing too conservatively in recent tournaments, and the 18-year-old's inclusion would send a message that this young squad will be going all out for victory come their clash with Russia on June 12.
The final decision may well be made for Hodgson anyway, with Daniel Sturridge missing the clash with Australia to a calf injury and now a major doubt to make it into the final group that head over the English Channel. Even if the Liverpool forward were fit, Hodgson would still need to do plenty of explaining if he opted to leave the youngster out.Despite the dream start to his England career, Rashford remains available at 150/1 with some bookmakers to go on to win the Golden Boot at the Euros. Those odds reflect quite how farfetched that achievement would still be, but it is clear with this young man that anything is possible.