England Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate admitted he was tempted to tell Marcus Rashford it was nice working with you after his sensational performance against Norway on Tuesday night.
Rashford was unfairly omitted from the senior squad by new manager Sam Allardyce after not receiving enough game time in the early stages of Jose Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford, and was selected for the Under-21s instead.
Making his debut under Southgate, Rashford sent an emphatic message to Allardyce and Mourinho, storming to a hat-trick against a bamboozled Norway defence, leading to many Manchester United fans pleading for his inclusion in the starting XI for the Manchester derby on Saturday.
Speaking after the 6-1 rout of Norway, Southgate was full of praise for the 18-year-old.
“I couldn’t have been happier with the way he approached everything,” he said.
“The Under-21 group is tight-knit and they are welcoming to newcomers but they have high expectations for them to work the way we work. If they don’t match that the group will sort them out quickly.
“You could see he was very comfortable in the environment and that is credit to everyone involved. It’s important to us that players express themselves and play to the best of their ability. I don’t know if that was his best but if there is more to come then that is very exciting.
“I just said, ‘You’ve enjoyed your week haven’t you?’ I was tempted to say, ‘It was nice working with you!'”
Above anything, Rashford makes football look easy. It’s almost like when you create a player on FIFA, put it on the ‘amateur’ setting, and let him ruin riot.
Every day, footballers – some older than Rashford, some younger – suffer setbacks: perhaps they’re pushed to one side, informed that they simply don’t have what it takes; perhaps they suffer a nasty injury and struggle returning to form; perhaps they simply stop progressing and find their level, whatever it may be.
And yet, none of this has happened with Rashford. Whilst football, cruel in its very nature, imposes setbacks on players around the world, this smiling 18-year-old continues to rise, refusing to obey the very laws of nature in his ascension to stardom.
He has now scored on his European debut, Premier League debut, Manchester derby debut, senior international debut and Under-21 debut. Watching him steamroll past Norway last night, I thought to myself: surely the bubble will burst soon; surely he’ll be confronted with the harsh reality of goalless spells, poor form and injuries any time soon.
But then again, I thought that exact same thing back in February.