Another United match, another delectable goal from young, gifted and Red Marcus Rashford. After helping United reach the FA Cup semi final on Wednesday night at Upton Park, with a mazy run and classy finish reminiscent of a young Ryan Giggs, the precocious Rashford was at it again on Saturday, scoring his 7th goal in 12 appearances with a peachy flick, to earn United the 3 points and relegate an indifferent Aston Villa to the Championship. In a turgid season, Rashford has been one of the few bright points, together with goalkeeper David De Gea’s best human impression of a brick wall (surely the sole contender for our player of the season) and Anthony Martial’s authoritative presence in front of goal.
Should Rashford continue to sparkle to the end of the season, and even more, help United win the FA Cup for the first time in 12 years, the quiet murmur for Rashford to be included in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the Euros in France will, I fear, grow into a deafening clamour. There is a danger that Hodgson may be influenced into heeding the public clarion call and giving Rashford a last minute call up. If the England manager should acquiesce, he would be wrong to do so, for playing Rashford too early could ruin him.
Marcus Rashford is 18 years old. He has never played international football. He hasn’t even played a full season for Man Utd, for goodness sake. How can he possibly be expected to carry the (probably deluded) hopes of a nation into a major international tournament? Yes, the burden of unrealistic expectation will be inevitably placed on his youthful shoulders, irrespective of his inexperience, because unrealistic expectations are always put on England players, no matter what. The media and Joe Public will expect Rashford to come off the bench and produce the same match defining performance for England that he has been doing for United. Worse, there may even be a call for him to start should England struggle early on or pick up a few injuries.
There is no valid reason to risk plunging Rashford into the maelstrom of international football on the cusp of his nascent career. Hodgson has plenty of young up and coming players at his disposal whom he has tested in international waters and who can be relied on to do a job for England. Rashford needs to spend the summer recovering from his Premiership exertions, enjoy some important down time relaxing with family and friends, and then prepare for pre-season in readiness to play a first full season with United, probably under a new manager.
Once the new season is under way and a new England qualifying campaign begins, by all means introduce Rashford, gradually, into the team at a time when there is less pressure and he is free to play unburdened, so he can demonstrate his abilities and develop new skills. This way, there is less danger of burn out or picking up injuries.
Ultimately, as a United fan, I don’t want Rashford’s glittering potential to be tarnished by being rushed prematurely into the hurly burly of international football by desperate England fans. England can wait. Rashford’s well-being and United come first.