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Rashford seizes England chance to leave Sturridge in peril

Marcus Rashford’s having a party. Bring your humble attitude and deadly finishing.

Some people have it and some people don’t. Whatever it is, Rashford has it in abundance. Perhaps the 18-year-old’s defining quality is the ice in veins. If he experiences nerves, we’re yet to see evidence of them. 

Days after scoring twice on his Manchester United debut in the Europa League against FC Midtjylland in February, Rashford bagged two more at home to Arsenal.

Fast forward four months and the youngster was in the starting line-up for England as they prepared for Euro 2016 with a friendly against Australia.

Thought to have been called up to the preliminary training squad as a valuable learning experience, it was Rashford who handed out the lessons at the Stadium of Light on Friday.

His first involvement for the Three Lions saw him seize on a loose ball to play Raheem Sterling into the area. The Manchester City player’s attempted cross struck Mark Milligan, the ball looped into the area and who else but Rashford was on hand to smash it home with his second touch for the senior national team after just three minutes.

In doing so he became the youngest debutant scorer in England’s history and then proceeded to demonstrate that his early intervention was no fluke.

The hosts struggled to get to grips with Australia, but Rashford barely put a foot out of step, using the ball carefully when he received it, holding it up like a seasoned veteran to help England wrest possession back from the Socceroos, before combining with Ryan Bertrand to lay on a good chance for Adam Lallana.

He could have done better when released through on goal by Sterling in the 15th minute, but that minor lapse will not count against him when Hodgson makes the difficult decision of reducing his selection to 23 for the trip to France.

Rashford also performed well when moved to the right side of the attack in the second half, a loose touch preventing him from scoring a second when played in by substitute Wayne Rooney on the hour mark, before being withdrawn in favour of Ross Barkley with 25 minutes to go.

The fitness of Daniel Sturridge will have a huge influence on the manager’s thinking. Should the Liverpool striker recover sufficiently from a calf injury, Hodgson may have to leave out Rashford and risk incurring the wrath of England supporters and the media alike if the notoriously fragile Sturridge suffers a relapse in France.

Thanks to Rashford’s latest star turn, the alternative is now more palatable. Hodgson can cut his losses and leave out the perennially susceptible Sturridge and trust in Rashford to serve as an able deputy to Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Rooney. 

On all the evidence we’ve seen, England should have no doubts over Rashford’s ability to deliver on whatever stage he is asked to perform on.

Fri 27 May, 2016
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