There is no dispute – football is changing. High wages and ludicrous transfer fees have replaced loyalty and passion at the forefront of the game. Even clubs rich in the tradition of producing world-class talents have begun rushing blindly into the transfer market to remain competitive. Teams are now finding it harder than ever to integrate their young talents into the first team. However, if clubs can keep hold of their young stars, like Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford or Chelsea’s Lewis Baker, they can represent everything we as fans love about the beautiful game.
Marcus Rashford: The Embodiment of Manchester United
In the post-Fergie depression that Manchester United are currently stuck in, we’ve seen David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and now Jose Mourinho spend countless millions on players to try and regain some stature in world football. However, it seems that some of the players coming into the team lack not the talent, but the intangibles which make a proper United player. There is, however, a glimmer of hope coming through the ranks at Old Trafford. A player who not only represents the future of Manchester United, but is Manchester United through and through. This glimmer is Marcus Rashford.
“He’s one of our own”
Becoming successful at Manchester United is no simple endeavour, and one that becomes a near impossibility if the supporters do not adore you. Which is why each player that wears the famous red kit must understand exactly what they’re wearing – the weight of millions worldwide living and dying with every kick of the ball. This passion for the club is what separates players from heroes, and Rashford has Manchester United pulsing through his veins.
Marcus was born in Wythenshawe, just ten minutes from the Theatre of Dreams. At the age of seven he joined the United academy, and has remained with the club since that day. Rashford has only ever known and loved United, his passion visible through the sheer jubilation on his face every time he scores. Any potential suitors of the runner-up to last year’s Golden Boy Award should be wary that prying Rashford away from his beloved Red Devils may result in a dip in form, as pulling on another jersey just wouldn’t be right. Rashford and United have a co-dependent relationship, and they need each other to be at their best.
Throughout the years, countless comebacks have been a trademark for Manchester United. “Fergie-time” has become more than just a saying. A player who resigns themselves to a loss before the final whistle should not be taking the pitch for the Red Devils. Fortunately, Rashford has “never say die” in his DNA.
Many United youngsters have set the world alight in their debut season. But few have the resolve to battle to remain relevant when the going gets tough in their second time around, just ask Adnan Januzaj about his second United season. While the young Belgian rots on the bench of relegation-destined Sunderland, Rashford has readily taken the reigns in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s absence. Although his goals have dried up this campaign, Rashford never gets discouraged. Neither his winner in extra-time against Anderlecht, or his sublime free-kick against Celta Vigo earlier this month were his first clear-cut chance of the game, but the young striker has not only the desire, but the need to score.
Rashford continuously drives at the opposition, desperate for his reward. Losing doesn’t cross this young man’s mind.
If United are at the peak of their powers, big European matches are guaranteed. These games require players who won’t cower to, but embrace the pressure. If the past 12 months are any indication, Rashford loves a big game.
Inevitably, most players will take time to adapt to a new challenge. Yet at just 19 years old, Rashford has scored on his United, Premier League, Manchester derby, England U-21 and England debuts; including a pair of braces against Midtjylland and Arsenal, and bagging a hat-trick for the U-21’s. In addition, the aforementioned Europa League strikes saved United from another yet European disappointment to a lesser club. It won’t be long before we see Rashford terrorising defences and goalkeepers throughout the continent for club and country.
Loyalty has become a fleeting trait among modern footballers. However, there are certain individuals that go hand-in-hand with the club that they fight for. Totti, Terry, Lahm, Puyol. These are players who represent exactly what it means to play for their club.
Will Marcus Rashford join this list? All the qualities are there, but only time will tell.