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The World Cup is a unique opportunity for Marcus Rashford to shine

It’s been over two years since Marcus Rashford burst into the limelight with a brace against Danish side FC Midtjylland in the UEFA Europa League. In the run-up to that moment, the then 18-year-old may have expected to play a low-key profile in Louis Van Gaal’s injury-depleted squad; as a substitute at best! However in the pre-match warm-up session, French international Anthony Martial suffered a hamstring injury, paving the way for the little-known teenager from Manchester to make his dream start at Old Trafford.

Rashford went on to score a brace, even picking the Man of the Match award in an emphatic 5-1 win; a feat that saw Manchester United qualify for the last 16 of the Europa League with a 6-3 aggregate victory. He, however, didn’t stop there, three days later, he went on another fine display, this time bagging a brace against Arsenal in his Premier League debut. Rashford’s meteoric rise has however not been without a challenge.

Last season, Jose Mourinho was criticised for his handling of the forward; critics were keen to point out that the United manager’s brand of football limited the chances and development of the English attacker. The arrival of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku pushed him further down the pecking order; however, this did not stop Rashford from bagging 13 goals in 25 appearances; enough to earn him a place in Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup squad.

At just twenty years old, he has to his name FA Cup, FA Community Shield, Europa League and EFL Cup winners’ medals. A look at his stats shows just how much it would be remiss to overlook his impact at the World Cup. The youngster who came through United’s youth ranks seems to really love debuts. He has now scored in the Premier League, EFL Cup, Europa League, UEFA Champions League and international debuts both for the seniors and the U21 squads.

His scintillating performances have made him an instant fan favourite, with outstanding performances against top-four rivals Manchester City, Chelsea, and most recently Liverpool. At his best, Rashford has been known to capture the imagination of fans on the pitch, with lightning pace and clever movement, playing with such vigour and spirit that the opposition’s defence hates the sight of him. He is someone who can change the game in an instant; at the start of last season, Rashford impressed from the bench on a number of occasions.

As he battles for match fitness ahead of England’s opening FIFA World Cup match against Tunisia, Rashford will no doubt be buzzing to make it a memorable one. The fact that his club manager will be watching from the sidelines in Russia, will add a certain zeal to it. This is a chance he will want to take with both hands; in the end, it’ll be down to how Southgate uses him. However, if he is to force himself into Mourinho’s ‘untouchables list, he’ll have to do it on this football stage.

Written by George Oduor

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