Marcus Rashford: Has Man Utd teenager booked Euro 2016 place?

By Phil McNultyChief football writer
Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford is England's 10th-youngest player and third-youngest goalscorer

Marcus Rashford marched off to a standing ovation from England's fans inside the Stadium Of Light at Sunderland after playing an inspirational role in their win against Australia.

Manchester United's 18-year-old striker made history as the youngest goalscorer on his England debut, netting after only 138 seconds in the 2-1 victory and giving the sort of performance that almost demands inclusion in manager Roy Hodgson's 23-man squad for Euro 2016 when it is confirmed on Tuesday.

So will the young man who has been a shining light in a soulless season at Old Trafford get the opportunity to sparkle on the international stage at the showpiece in France?

The rise of Rashford

Roy Hodgson
Time is running out for Roy Hodgson to name his final 23-man squad

When Hodgson named Rashford in his extended 26-man squad on 16 May it was assumed the teenager would be one of the names culled.

He was regarded as one for the future who, in the manner of Everton's John Stones and Liverpool's Jon Flanagan before the 2014 Cup in Brazil, would be given a sample of what lay ahead of him in the friendly environment before enjoying events in France from the comfort of home.

Circumstances have altered events and it is now growing increasingly unlikely that Hodgson will resist the clamour for the youngster's inclusion.

Rashford has, by all accounts, been outstanding in training with England since joining up with the squad and the manner in which he took his goal showed the crucial combination of a cool head and good technique as he volleyed in from close range.

He is also the sort of talent, untamed and blessed with the lightning pace that forces even the best defences to take steps back, that has captured the imagination of England's supporters and will provide a buzz of excitement should he make the plane to France.

England's latest wildcard

Archive: Owen lights up France 98

Rashford is the youngest player to score on his England debut at 18 years and 208 days old - beating Tommy Lawton's previous record of 19 years and 16 days against Wales on 22 October 1938 - and only Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney were younger goalscorers for their country.

Rooney, then at Everton, scored his first England goal in Macedonia on 6 September 2003 at the age of 17 years 317 days. Owen opened his international account in a friendly against Morocco on 27 May 1998 before the start of the 1998 World Cup in France, aged 18 years 164 days.

Of greater relevance here is the impact Owen and Rooney went on to have after going to major tournaments as England's secret weapons, using that platform to make their names on the world stage.

Owen's name flashed around the world when he scored his brilliant solo goal against Argentina, running from the halfway line at blistering pace, in England's last-16 match at France 98, which they went on to lose on penalties. He also scored in the shootout.

"Roomania" hit Euro 2004 in Portugal when Rooney scored twice against Switzerland and Croatia before breaking his foot in the quarter-final against the hosts. England again lost on penalties after drawing 2-2 in a game many felt they would have won had he stayed on.

Rashford has the capacity to be the sort of unknown quantity, even off the bench as Owen was at France 98, and surprise package that could act as an England game-changer in France.

Of course it does not always work. Theo Walcott was only 17 and had not played a game for Arsenal when Sven-Goran Eriksson named him in England's 2006 World Cup squad - then effectively spent the whole tournament as a starstruck holidaymaker.

Hodgson has the luxury of knowing Rashford has the temperament and talent to give him every chance of making an impact in France.

Theo Walcott
Theo Walcott was a surprise addition to the squad for World Cup 2006 - at the age of just 17

The model of efficiency

Rashford's ruthlessness in front of goal has become his trademark since he scored twice on his Manchester United debut against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League in February then repeated the feat on his Premier League bow against Arsenal a few days later.

So it should be no surprise that he celebrated his England debut in similar fashion - further proof he is not fazed by pressure of the big occasion.

Rashford scored five goals in 11 Premier League games for Manchester United this season, including an excellent winner in the 1-0 derby victory at Manchester City and also had two assists.

He had a shooting accuracy of 88.89% and a conversion rate of 55.56%.

Who is at risk?

Rashford is easing into the role of what is known as a "bolter" before major championships - the player who comes from nowhere in the final weeks of the season to make the squad.

So who is under threat as manager Roy Hodgson studies his options?

Daniel Sturridge is certainly under a cloud and sat grim-faced on the bench at the Stadium of Light as Rashford took the plaudits, sidelined once more with a calf injury.

Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge scored England's opening goal at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil - but could he miss out this time?

The 26-year-old Liverpool striker is arguably England's most naturally gifted player in his position, as proved by his wonderful instinctive goal with the outside of his left foot in the Europa League Final defeat by Sevilla in Basel, but he is never free from injury for long.

He now has a matter of days to convince Hodgson of his fitness before the final squad is revealed on Tuesday in what is becoming a real dilemma for England's manager.

Hodgson, 68, has always insisted he will not take players unless he is convinced of their full fitness - and history proves England's previous risk-taking has not ended well with the likes of David Beckham at the World Cup in Japan in 2002 and Rooney at the same tournament in Germany four years later. They were both recovering from foot injuries and had poor World Cups, Rooney getting sent off in the quarter-final defeat by Portugal, again on penalties.

Dare Hodgson take a similar risk given Sturridge's history, especially as Rashford is now offering up such an exciting alternative?

Should he be on the plane?

Simple answer: yes.

He is fresh, vibrant, gifted and looks the sort of character who will shine, not shrink in the surroundings of a major international tournament.

Rashford has shown the big time - and more importantly the big matches - hold no terrors for him at Manchester United this season, so Hodgson should add the precocious teenager, who only made his senior debut on 25 February, to his England squad for Euro 2016.

Wayne Rooney
Captain Wayne Rooney took his England goalscoring record tally to 52

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