I realise I am only adding to the thousands of column inches written about Marcus Rashford this week, but having watched him for many years now, my overwhelming pride of seeing him climb his way to the top and live out the dream of any youth team player at United this week has been immense. He is another product of the Fletcher Moss Rangers who play on the Mersey Bank playing fields in Didsbury. Marcus follows in the footsteps of other United regulars such as Wes Brown and Danny Welbeck having previously played for Fletcher Moss. Rashford has been at the club for 12 years now after being scouted at a youth tournament in Fallowfield by Derek Langley, United’s head of youth recruitment.
Ron Jamieson, the secretary of Fletcher Moss Rangers spoke to The Times earlier this week revealing how Manchester City turned down the chance to sign him. “His brother Dwain came down, he was touting him to City at the time, but the recruitment officer at the time didn’t fancy him because he was a bit on the small side”.
You’re probably feeling confused if you are not familiar with United’s youth teams, with numerous articles about how poor our academy is this season. The truth of the matter is the academy is underfunded and is falling behind other top 6 clubs in terms of scouting, facilities and recruitment. However the players United have at their disposal within the academy this season are the most talented group for a long time. Where United lack in facilities they certainly make up for in first-team football provided, which lets not forget is what any young aspiring footballer wants. This season youth team players aren’t just playing a few minutes towards the end of a league cup tie, they are starting regularly, playing well and contributing to the team.
Rashford recently turned 18 this season and is not even established at under-21 level yet, having only made 2 starts and 7 substitute appearances for Warren Joyce’s side. This season so far he has 15 goals for United; 7 at U18 level, 3 at U19, 1 at U21 and now 4 for the first-team. A player scoring at each level has not been achieved since Guiseppe Rossi in 2006 (excluding u19). He edged past James Wilson’s record becoming the youngest ever Premier League player to score a brace and Thursday saw him become United’s youngest scorer in Europe since George Best.
Rashford has been a prolific goalscorer for the under-18 side over the past few seasons and has been the focal point of the side up front on his own. Best known for his pace and willingness to get in behind the defensive line. Fletcher Moss coaches have tipped Rashford to be a greater talent than Danny Welbeck because of his gifted pace. Van Gaal said post-match on Thursday how he told Marcus to stop running so much at half-time, and it certainly paid off when he did. This is the one criticism of his game, a lot of energy is wasted chasing the ball and drifting into wide less effective positions.
The question being raised by so many this week is where does he go from here? Federico Macheda’s name is synonymous with one-hit wonders. Similar to businesses undergoing rapid growth, everything seems great, but unless you know how to deal with it, it can be your downfall. However Rashford appears to have the temperament and personality to keep his head down, learn the game and accept there will be times things won’t go his way. His attitude has to come down to United’s coaching staff in-particular Warren Joyce, when MUTV asked how he keeps players level headed Joyce simply laughed, “I find that bit the easiest”. You wouldn’t mess with the man in the shorts.
Rashford’s week shows that age is no discrimination when it comes to football, whether a player is on £1,500 a week or £300,000 it is irrelevant once they are out on the pitch. Seeing youth team players coming into the team over the past few season has really benefitted the club. There is no questioning their desire for the team being local lads and having to work their way up. Their passion and willingness can transpire onto senior foreign players who may not fully understand the magnitude and responsibility they face representing United and the city of Manchester. It has helped United keep their identity during what has been a difficult period.
Despite the injury situation facing the club, there has certainly been a positive outcome in terms of youth team players getting rewarded for their hard work, with 15 seeing first team debuts over the past two seasons. Van Gaal has had a proven record of bringing youth through and he has continued doing so at United. Marcus Rashford has been an exceptional case, seeing him perform on cold winter nights at Moss Lane and then watching on from Stretford End this week it has been incredible, something United supporters are truly privileged with, more than any other club.
Last Match: Middlesbrough 1-2 United
United battled their way to the top of the league after coming from behind to beat Middlesbrough in a controversial match. Rothwell scored a brilliant goal which was incorrectly ruled offside, El Fitouri should have seen red for a last-man foul but got away with it. Burn howeved didn’t as Middlesbrough had 10 men minutes later after the defender pulled back James Weir in the box. Pereira levelled and United finally got going in the match, Weir drilled a cross in low resulting in an unfortunate winning own-goal from McGinley. Not the best spectacle but United dug deep to see through an impressive result with Weir following up his first-team debut by putting in a man of the match performance.
Line up: Pereira, Love, Williams, McNair, Riley, Poole, Redmond Rothwell, A. Pereira, Weir, Januzaj
Subs: Henderson, El-Fitouri, Warren, McTominay, Mitchell
Ashley Fletcher played the full match but did not score as Barnsley beat Crewe 2-1 on Saturday, however on Tuesday night he got his 3rd goal for Barnsley since joining in January as the Tykes beat Coventry 2-0. Nick Powell got on for 30 minutes in Hull’s 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday. O’Hara continues to sit on the bench in Morecambe and Tyler Blackett’s face will be appearing on missing men posters in Glasgow soon enough. James Wilson made his way back into the Brighton squad after his injury and got on for the last 15 minutes of Brighton’s 4-0 demolition of Leeds Monday night.
Next Match: Oldham (H)
United face Oldham in the Manchester senior club on Monday 7th March, kick off is at 1pm however the game is behind closed doors at Carrington.