Will Marcus Rashford come of age at Manchester United? Jose Mourinho resists comparisons with Rooney with prospect set to turn 21
- Manchester United attacker Marcus Rashford turns 21 on Wednesday
- Jose Mourinho believes that Rashford ‘has conditions for his career to explode’
- Mourinho refused to compare Rashford with a young Wayne Rooney
- Rashford has gained plenty of experience and is now looking for consistency
Marcus Rashford turns 21 on Wednesday, the boy wonder coming of age two and a half years after he came from nowhere to score twice on a famous debut for Louis van Gaal.
Since then, the softly-spoken Mancunian’s record at such a tender age compares favourably with the best young prodigies of modern times, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney. Rashford, who plays Everton on Sunday, already has 33 goals in 132 games for Manchester United, and 29 England caps with six goals.
To put that into context, Paul Scholes and David Beckham, who became United legends, had barely got going by Rashford’s age.
Marcus Rashford turns 21 on Wednesday and has already played over 100 club games
Jose Mourinho believes the experience Rashford has gained can help him be a huge success
Most of England’s most recent World Cup squad, including Harry Kane, were nowhere near their international debuts before they reached 21.
Only Giggs has played more Premier League games for United at the same age and Mourinho is using the milestone birthday to predict Rashford is on the cusp of becoming the homegrown superstar Manchester United crave — ‘one of their own’.
‘For most players, 21 years old means zero matches or a squad player that plays a few minutes,’ said Mourinho. ‘For Marcus Rashford it’s a World Cup, two seasons of Champions League, a Europa League final, two FA Cup finals, a League Cup final, more appearances than anyone in the last two years.
‘It means a capital of experiences and opportunities to develop himself at this age. You can only compare that with the fantastic players who made their breakthrough at a very young age.
Wayne Rooney made a significant impact for United as a youngster after joining from Everton
Rashford has also gained much experience for England on the international stage
‘I think he is a privileged kid, if you want to say now a man, that had so many opportunities to develop himself and is going to keep having them.
‘So I think he has conditions for his career to explode, in the positive way of the word, that not many players have during their careers.’
It is an optimistic outlook that everyone at Old Trafford, from chief executive Ed Woodward to season ticket holders, will fervently hope comes true.
Rashford, originally from Withington in the south of the city and developed at the famous Fletcher Moss junior club, not only has the pace and skills to engage a new generation of fans, he also has a natural humility that sits well, guided by a strong mother and his brothers Dane and Dwayne.
Mourinho’s natural preference for experience and defensively-minded players has been viewed as a barrier to Rashford getting enough starts, something the manager disputes.
He also balked at the chance to speculate over whether Rashford can go on to match the longevity of Rooney.
‘This is the kind of thing that I don’t think is good for him,’ added Mourinho. ‘On one side, he has a fantastic range of opportunities to develop himself, on another he always has this kind of situation surrounding him.
MARCUS RASHFORD’S MANCHESTER UNITED RECORD
2015/16: 18 appearances, eight goals
2016/17: 53 appearances, eleven goals
2017/18: 52 appearances, 13 goals
2018/19: Nine appearances, one goal
Total: 132 appearances, 33 goals
Trophies won: FA Cup 2016, Community Shield 2016, EFL Cup 2017, Europa League 2017
‘Rooney did it. Marcus didn’t. It’s comparing somebody with an amazing career with a young player. The only thing they have similar is the start. The start was similar but now let’s see how it ends. So I don’t think Marcus needs this kind of comparison. Rooney is Rooney, Marcus is Marcus.’
Rashford is important to United as an heir to the Busby Babes and Class of 92. Last week, members of Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous youth team — Giggs, Beckham, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt — rallied round to support the launch of a new autobiography by their former team-mate Ben Thornley, whose own dreams of making it at Old Trafford were shattered by a serious knee injury.
‘United fans take local players to their hearts straight away,’ says Thornley. ‘That means the lads who have grown up in the area and come through the ranks. Fergie didn’t go out and spend millions in 1996.
‘He recognised he had talent in the youth system — what is the point of having it if you’re not going to use it?’
Thornley watched from the treatment table as his pals Giggsy, Scholesy and Becks became household names and coped with the money and adulation without going off the rails.
He thinks the values laid down by Ferguson and his youth-team coaches Eric Harrison and Nobby Stiles have stayed at the club to serve Rashford well.
Rashford burst onto the scene for United in 2016 as he scored against Midtjylland
Rashford celebrates winning the FA Cup in 2016 with Jesse Lingard, Michael Carrick and Matteo Darmian
‘On day one at The Cliff (United’s old training ground), the manager came down the stairs with his assistant Archie Knox and gave a speech which was not just about football.
‘He stressed the importance of going back to our families in the evening as the same people who we were when we left in the morning. No way was a Manchester United player getting carried away, even after 300 games. It was an education in life as well as football.
‘I think the influence of the club is still there. You can hear in Marcus’s voice when he speaks that he has dealt extremely well with being thrust into the limelight at such a young age.
‘It would be sad if a player like Rashford is lost to Manchester United. I think the club recognise they want him to be here for a long time.
‘I am glad Nicky Butt (head of the academy) is in the building. He understands the relationship between the club and homegrown talent — he was one himself and knows how important it is to maintain that conveyor belt. His door will always be open for Marcus and the others.’
There is a wonderful clip on YouTube posted by Guide Dogs UK this month, of Rashford engaging in conversation with a 15-year-old blind footballer, genuinely interested in the young man’s career and asking about his future.
Lee Martin from Hyde, one of the original Fergie Fledglings who scored United’s FA Cup final winner in 1990 at the age of 22, is glad United are still the type of club where a local lad can make it all the way to the first team.
Martin said: ‘Marcus is a lovely lad. He is going to be one of the top players in the world if he carries on the way he is. I was 12 when I came to United and I learned how to deal with things from a young age. You watched the older pros, Bryan Robson and Steve Bruce. I am sure Marcus has the same with people like Michael Carrick.
‘I think he’s good enough to be a Manchester United regular, either out wide or as a centre forward. I hope he stays for 10 years and leaves a legacy.’
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