Friday, 9 September 2016

Not making any 'Rash' decisions

It is almost a year to the day since a complete unknown took to Rochdale's Spotland pitch under the floodlights for a fleeting 20 minute cameo appearance for Manchester United in the Lancashire Senior Cup. For most youth players at Manchester United they will be embarking on a journey along a conveyor belt on their way to obscurity - just another youngster who was never going to make the cut into the prestigious senior squad. The man in question, however, was Marcus Rashford. The same man who scored an impressive hat-trick in this week's 6-1 thumping of Norway's U21s,
This emphatic scoreline comes only days after England's senior squad yet again struggled to break down a relatively poor Slovakian side, despite a man advantage, purely down to a severe lack of attacking threat and creative impetus - two ingredients that clearly Rashford has in abundance. Which makes you question why the young man has been omitted from both Jose Mourinho's and Sam Allardyce's respective set-ups.

Rashford completes his hat-trick vs Norway, and has now scored on both England and England U21 debuts
Roy Hodgson took a chance on him during Euro 2016, and if anything he looked our most substantial attacking threat - but I suppose that isn't saying much. Now, regardless of his success in the early stages of his career and being an exciting prospect with clear goalscoring prowess and attacking threat I firmly believe his feet should be firmly held on the ground for the time being.
The man who has the most significant effect on which path Rashford finds himself on in the coming years, and who could to some extent make or break his whole career is Jose Mourinho. Clearly, stocks in Rashford have spiralled even higher in the aftermath of Tuesday's superb hat-trick, and gives Mourinho (and Allardyce for that matter) even more to think about - if he wasn't in their minds he's certainly at the forefront of it now. However, without consistent minutes at Manchester United surely a position in England squads are untenable for Rashford especially with the likes of players on the cusp of England call ups such as Jermaine Defoe making a strong start to the domestic season. This is where Mourinho has a decision to make.
Despite an illustrious managerial career one potential downfall the media have identified is his lack of youth development, the complete opposite of Sir Alex Ferguson who guided the 'Class of '92' to cement themselves as legends at Old Trafford, even Louis Van Gaal offered many, Rashford included, the opportunity to break into the senior team.

Despite an extraordinary record, Mourinho has never relished youth development
As one of the most celebrated managers of all time, even if he is a controversial character, Mourinho must surely recognise he has a player on his hands, but as we've seen at Chelsea in the past the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku have simply been discarded by him in the past, and since gone on to do bigger and better things. In addition, only fourteen of the youth players Mourinho has claimed to developed have made more the five appearances under him.
Clearly Rashford should be handled with care if his potential is to shine through, he needs game time at the highest level for sure, however, as good as he is for an 18 year old opportunities are going to be few and far between with Rooney - club captain, and Ibrahimovic a major marquee signing this transfer window aren't going to be easy to overtake in the pecking order. However, what they do offer Rashford is the opportunity to learn vital lessons from the duo current leading the line for the red half of Manchester.
Regardless of whether he gives Rashford consistent minutes or not, Mourinho is in a win-win situation, because Rashford has so much time to mature as a player, and already oozes talent. The responsibility is on the older players to justify their inclusion ahead of him. When the opportunities do come around as a youngster under no pressure, he makes the most of them, illustrated by his injury time winner against Hull.
The same can be said about Sam Allardyce on the international scene. Yes, Gareth Southgate may be under scrutiny for not thrusting Rashford upon Allardyce - of course Southgate has identified Rashford's incredible ability in front of goal - it's what he's done tirelessly for the past few years with the likes Sterling, Kane, and Alli to name a couple that have moved on to bigger and better things after sensible nurturing. Even Allardyce himself has been under fire for not taking a risk with Rashford and freshening the national team up, but this surely would have been to much of a risk for his first game in charge. Regardless of if Rashford is in Allardyce's current plans or not, no harm has been done omitting him from the squad, clearly his game is developing nicely at U21 level, and making Rashford a regular fixture in the senior squad too early could see him lose momentum in his development as a world class player - see Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as examples of this. After all Rashford will still only be 20 years old when Russia 2018 comes around.
Above everything though, no matter what the future holds for this talented young man, perspective is the best way of concluding this piece. He's made something of his career - from an insignificant 20 minutes against Rochdale a year ago, he now has Guardiola's Manchester City in his sights. Not bad for an 18 year old I suppose!

Follow me on Twitter: @DLster

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