FANCY FOOTWORK: From left - Chelsea's Gary Cahill and Manchester United's Marcus Rashford at Stamford Bridge this week
IT WAS just over a year ago that young Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford sensationally announced himself to the world.
The then 18-year-old hit the headlines after scoring twice on his club debut in the 5-1 victory over FC Midtjylland in the Europa League on February 25 when he was picked as a late replacement for the injured Anthony Martial.
Just three days later the fairytale was embellished when he netted twice in a 3-2 on his Premier League debut against Arsenal.
His fledgling career has seen him already pick up three winners’ medals. The teenager has already had success in the FA Cup, Community Shield and more recently the English Football League (EFL) Cup after a sensational last gasp win over Southampton.
With the League Cup secured there is every chance that the United protégé could add to his trophy haul with assaults on the FA Cup and Europa League very much alive in early March.
UNISON: From left - Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Marcus Rashford
Speaking in the EFL Cup final match day programme, Rashford admitted:
“It’s been a good year for me.
“We’ve won trophies and I’ve really gelled together with the squad. I’ve improved a lot personally, too.
“Winning the FA Cup final was the most enjoyable feeling I’ve had in that time.
“I’ve never been to Wembley as a fan, so to go for the first time as a player with United and win was fantastic.
“I have some great memories from the last year. I’ve scored bigger goals since, but the ones on my first team debut against Midtjylland would still have to be my favourites. They were a different feeling to the others and will always be special to me.”
Playing for arguably the biggest club in the world puts you under microscopic pressure - just ask the likes of Paul Ince, Roy Keane, Jaap Stam and David Beckham.
LIKE THE WIND: Marcus Rashford at Old Trafford earlier this year
However, Rashford has shown an initial maturity beyond his years and looks like a surefire bet to follow in the illustrious footsteps of the aforementioned quartet. He said of the pressure of pulling on the famous red shirt:
“It’s not been difficult to stay grounded, no. It’s difficult in terms of the pressures when perhaps results haven’t gone our way. But I’m used to that now.
“It’s a massive club and everybody expects massive things. It’s up to me and everybody else to make sure we deliver on it.
“I’ve had lots of support around me, not just since I’ve been in the first team, but from the day I joined United."
With United captain Wayne Rooney seemingly surplus to requirements at Old Trafford, the famous Manchester club would appear to have a ready made replacement for the club’s record goal scorer when he makes his likely exodus in the summer. Rashford was keen to talk up the role that the team leader has played in his own development.
TEAM PLAYERS: From left - Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney during a training session
“I’ve confided in Wayne Rooney a lot. It’s good for us younger players to know he’s been through what we’ve been through, now and in the future. Having him around you every day is a big help for confidence.”
If Rooney has been of assistance to Rashford so too has manager Jose Mourinho and the plethora of star strikers that have graced the club.
“When I knew it was Jose (Mourinho) coming in (as manager), I was excited, too. My all-round game has developed a lot since he has been here.
“It’s the same situation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. All the players want to help the young guys out. We’ve got good relationships throughout this club.
“I mostly looked up to Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, when those two were playing together. I used to come to nearly every home game because I was part of the academy.
“It has been great to watch them when they were the best team around from 2006 onwards. That was when everybody really opened their eyes and saw that United were back after a few years without the title.
WINNING STREAK: Marcus Rashford celebrates a win in January
“I must have been about nine, and it was amazing to see. That was a team that not only got results and silverware but a real style of play ingrained in them. Everyone wanted to beat that team, because they were so good.
“I never met Cristiano, but had the privilege of watching him train a few times when I first started training at Carrington.
“Since I’ve always been an attacker, I always looked up to players like him. Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov were also at the club around that time. Then more recently, the likes of Robin van Persie have played here.
“I used to see them all around and they were easy to speak to if you needed advice. They were very open, so I never hesitated to ask them questions. Their guidance has been great for all of the young players at this club.”
Like those famous goal poachers, Rashford is determined to land even more prizes.
“I’ve only had the feeling of coming here and winning. It’s important to me to keep that run going. I don’t want to know what it feels like to lose here.
“These are the moments that define your career, I want to look back on them with pride in our achievements. We’re all winners here.”
Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.