England fans, I know it’s painful, but cast your minds back to June 2016, specifically The Euros. There’s no need to bore you with the details, the Three Lions crashed out, we were appalling, lots of bald men punched each other et cetera.
You may recall sitting on your sofa during the tournament – particularly as a Manchester United fan – absolutely screaming for Marcus Rashford to come on the pitch. Fans sat by in disbelief as a worn-out Harry Kane couldn’t find the net and was forced on corner duty, Jack Wilshere was a general waste of a shirt and a then-underperforming Raheem Sterling made little impact.
When the team was crying out for creativity, pace and a goal. 18-year-old Rashford sat on the bench, twiddling his thumbs, wondering how much revision he needs to do for college and whether or not he prefers the Nando’s in town or the Trafford Centre.
He was eventually called to the pitch in the 86th minute of a game against a nation ranked 34th in the world, Iceland. Statistics and, well, brains showed that for those four minutes, the United wonderkid looked more threatening than any other England player. He dribbed past three opposition players – no player on the pitch managed more.
After those 300 or so seconds, plenty of pundits and fans outside of Manchester began to take notice of Rashford’s International credentials.
It’s easy to see why his age was questioned pre-tournament in favour of a more experienced forward line. The teen soon answered those critics, scoring on his England debut in May and becoming the youngest ever English player to score in his debut senior international game.
Fast-forward a few months and the landscape has changed once again. Big Sam is somewhere hot, reflecting on his indiscretions, and Gareth Southgate has taken control of England’s World Cup qualifiers. The team was announced for the Malta game on Saturday afternoon, and Rashford was not to be seen. Football fans reacted in justified hysteria – what does the poor lad have to do to get a start?!
Alongside scoring in his League Cup debut, Rashford has racked up 12 goals in 25 games since his club debut. In that time, only Sergio Aguero has scored more out of Premier League players. In fact, no other English player has scored more goals since his professional debut in February – including Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge.
Although Sturridge did net his first goal of the season versus Malta, many pundits and fans are of the belief that the youngster, nominated for the Golden Boy 2016 award, should start ahead of him and deserves more than 20 minutes on the wing.
Before the game, the new gaffer spoke of the importance of playing without fear. At a time where the national side is in turmoil, a place for England’s most fearless player in the starting XI may just provide the boost the Three Lions need.
As the Sir Matt Busby quote in the dressing room at Old Trafford says: “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.”