If the above question was asked a couple of years ago, it would have been met with snorts of derision. Marcus Rashford burst onto the scene, making the most of a warm-up injury to Anthony Martial before United’s Europa League clash against FC Midtjylland in February 2016.
He played the ‘United way’- without inhibitions or fear, a smile on his face and the exuberance of a youngster simply living out his boyhood dream.
Fast forward two seasons and speculation has been rife whether current manager Jose Mourinho is capable of getting the best out of Rashford and fellow bright prospect Anthony Martial.
You have to pinch yourself sometimes that those two are still classed as ‘prospects’ as they embark on what will be, on paper at least, their third seasons in the United first team. Martial’s future continues to be subject of doubt, with him appearing to be more likely to leave than Rashford.
Both were given the chance to cement a spot in the side for last season’s FA Cup final in what turned out to be a soporific defeat at the Amex which secured Brighton’s survival and ensured United had completed the full set of away defeats against the previous season’s promoted sides.
After all the rumblings and noise from their camps about supposed discontent, neither covered themselves in glory. It seemed ego ruled the roost over these happy go lucky youngsters, something you would never have expected to accuse those two of.
Rashford went onto start the final, after Romelu Lukaku was only deemed fit enough for a spot on the bench, and spurned a glorious one on one chance to level the game. That opportunity that evaded him was magnified further by a quiet showing on the biggest domestic stage.
It has been a good week for Rashford. First, named by hero Cristiano Ronaldo as one of a select few players who could take his and Lionel Messi’s joint status as one of football’s icons. Then, his stunning strike against Costa Rica propelled him into the running to start for England at the biggest stage of them all and he must be brimming with confidence after beating Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas from long range. Rashford’s short career has been filled with glorious moments- from the double in a matter of days against Midtjylland and Arsenal to another stunning double last year against the ultimate enemy- we know what Rashford has in his locker.
Will he be allowed to take his talented belongings out of that locker under Mourinho though?
That is another question.
His conservative pragmatism, which has become the norm at United, is arguably not catered for creative freedom and licence that Rashford probably craves. He has been schooled the ‘United way’ which presumably does not involve being wrapped in shackles.
That said, Mourinho always turns to Rashford as he does not go hiding and will always work for the team. When the question was put to Mourinho about Rashford, he referred the world to the fact he has made the most appearances of any outfield player in his time at United. Alright, substitute appearances are littered in there but the point is valid.
Rashford has given himself the best possible chance to start for England in the biggest stage world football can offer. If he goes onto have a fantastic tournament, he will obtain indispensable status at Old Trafford, especially as Mourinho is on punditry duties and will not miss a single kick.
With all the mindboggling talk of £60M for half a season wonder at West Ham Marko Arnautovic, I would personally prefer Rashford as Romelu Lukaku’s deputy. He still has the world at his feet despite some turbulent times under Mourinho.
We know Mourinho is almost certainly not going to suddenly release the chains- he is an old dog with his set ways and will not change.
Class tells though and Rashford has undoubtedly been an integral part of Mourinho’s plans to restore United’s fortunes.
It is frightening to think that Rashford is still only 20 and could have a future away from United. He has already achieved more at 20 than some do in an entire career and more is surely to come.
Like Manchester, Rashford is red.