The Gareth Southgate era is well and truly upon us, an era where youth has become the foundation of the England national set-up. The average age of England’s World Cup squad is only 26, the joint youngest in the competition with Nigeria. The 46-year-old has shaken up things in England, most notably leaving big-names like Jack Wilshere at home in favour of younger members. One of those younger members is Marcus Rashford, a player everyone is looking at to fire the Three Lions to glory in Russia.
Like it or not, Marcus Rashford is undoubtedly one of the most exciting talents to come out of English football in the past twenty years. The Manchester United winger’s pace, skill, agility, power and composure in front of goal have forced people to talk about him in the same breath as Kylian Mbappé. Even Cristiano Ronaldo himself identified the 20-year-old as one of his successors in the near future.
Although shackled at Manchester United, Rashford has emerged as a marquee player for Gareth Southgate’s England team, despite being only 20 years old. If Harry Kane isn’t able to deliver the goods, all eyes will be on Rashford to compensate for the star striker. In his club career, Rashford has already made 78 appearances for the Red Devils since 2015, scoring on 17 occasions and winning four trophies. For England, he’s been accredited with 19 senior caps, scoring in three of those games.
At the 2014 World Cup, it was James Rodríguez who emerged as the standout player of the tournament, not Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Often or not, a player under the radar seems to steal the show and this year will be Rashford’s turn. No one expects the 20-year-old to be the best player in the tournament such is his age, but with low expectations, Rashford is set to blow us all away. Even in his age bracket, Mbappé is expected to perform better than him.
Throughout his tenure, Gareth Southgate has been seen to favour a 3-1-4-2 which does not have space for a #10. Meaning, it’s a straight choice between Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford to accompany Harry Kane up front.
Playing on the left of a front two, Rashford will be given the freedom go wide into the channels or run onto balls over the top. It’s that freedom that will allow Rashford to excel in his own ingenuity. In some friendlies, the 20-year-old has been seen to drop deep into midfield, acting as the #10 England don’t have.
At Manchester United, Jose Mourinho has burdened the youngster with overwhelming defensive responsibilities, forcing him to track back down the flanks. Southgate, on the other hand, has put together a system in which the wing-backs cover the wide positions, thus allowing the front two to move freely. Rashford has attacking freedom, allowing him to do what he does best, run at defenders.
An unshackled and confident Marcus Rashford is the key to England having any form of success at the World Cup. Mark my words, the youngster’s name will forever be etched in the history books after this tournament.