20th March 2016. Manchester City VS Manchester United. A jam-packed Etihad stadium (which is a rarity). 15 minutes on the clock. Manchester United moves forward as Spaniard Juan Mata passes the ball to the 18-year old Marcus Rashford, who goes past Martin Demichellis, and then calmly shoots the ball past Joe Hart into the nets. The stadium erupts into celebrations. Manchester United 1-0 Manchester City.
With this goal, Marcus Rashford became the youngest goalscorer (18 years 141 days) in the history of the Manchester Derby.
Till last year, most football fans were unaware of a young Manchester United U-19 player who goes by the name Marcus Rashford. In a span of few months, everything has changed for the 18-year old British striker.
Graduated from Manchester United academy, Rashford got his chance to play in the first team squad, in UEFA Europa League clash against Midtjylland, in February 2016. The last minute injury to Anthony Martial forced the former United boss Louis Van Gaal to play the gamble.
The gamble worked. Marcus Rashford scored two goals in the game and became instant hit among the fans.
Three days later the red devils faced Premiere League rivals Arsenal. With Martial again on the bench, Rashford got another shot in the first team. He scored two goals again and led the team to victory.
About a month later, Rashford scored the only goal in the derby clash against Manchester City, again giving a victory to Manchester United in a crucial game.
In 2015-2016 season, he scored 8 goals in total 18 appearances.
With the reputation of the player rising, Rashford was selected in Roy Hodgson’s Euro Cup squad for England. He scored a goal in just 3 minutes in his first international game, a friendly against Australia.
The youngster who slowly gained reputation for his fast pace dribbling skills, was praised by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a pre-season game against Galatasaray. A video footage showing Ibrahimovic applauding Rashford’s skills went viral after the game.
In spite of all the accolades, United’s new manager Jose Mourinho so far, in three premiere league games this season, has not given a first team start to the youngster. Rashford gave United a victory by scoring in injury time against Hull City, thus proving his goal-scoring abilities to the manager.
“I gave him a big smile and a big hug. I think he is marvellous and he is working very well,” Mourinho said after the game.
But, with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhtaryan, it appears to be difficult for Mourinho to decide whether to include the 18-year old in an all important clash against Manchester City on Saturday.
To tip the scale in his favor, the Manchester United’s wonder boy on Wednesday, played his first U-21 international football match for England against Norway U-21 and scored a hat-trick.
Rashford has undoubtedly proved himself worthy enough to be given a first-team start against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. But the question is if Mourinho is to play him, who would be on the bench?
While some think Wayne Rooney could play a deeper role in mid-field, and Rashford and Zlatan can play as the two strikers, Mourinho has already said that he wishes to play the United captain as a striker. United’s boss would not be willing to bench Rooney, as he would need all the experience he can to tackle City’s attacking mid-field.
The only person who might be benched to accommodate Rashford is Anthony Martial. Martial, on his return from the international tournament has been lack-lustrous this season. He has not made instant impact expected out of him. The French striker scored a goal for France in a friendly against Italy last week, showing some signs of revival.
But, with history proving Rashford’s ability to score in crucial games, United boss could play a gamble of playing the young England striker in Martial’s left-wing position.
Will Rashford get a start in the derby game will be known in a few hours. But if he plays, he might just repeat history once again, and prove to be the deciding factor against Manchester City.