#360view: Marcus Rashford’s obvious quality and nerveless demeanour suggests this is just the start

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  • Rashford has been rewarded with a new United deal.

    Marcus Rashford would not have dared to dream even four months ago that consecutive summer days would bring the announcement of a lucrative new deal at Manchester United and a spot on the plane to Euro 2016.

    This is the fairytale the prodigious striker is currently living, a ‘Roy of the Rovers’ comic strip brought vividly to life.

    The unchecked rise of one of British football’s brightest prospects is widely expected to continue with a place in Roy Hodgson’s final 23-man England squad to travel to France. This follows on the back of pictures being sent out showing him signing a contract until at least 2020 with the hometown club he has supported throughout his life, worth a reported £25,000 per-week (Dh134,379).

    Not bad for an 18-year-old who still lives at home with his mother and was unknown to many of his prospective United team-mates prior to February’s tie-saving double against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League during his unexpected first-team bow.

    Yet, what is so exciting about Rashford is the undeniable sense that much more is still to come.

    His awareness in possession and impressive link-up play means he can be judged on far more than a healthy return of eight goals during his first 18 United appearances, or the calm way he dispatched a volley just 138 seconds into Friday’s 2-1 win against Australia to become his nation’s youngest-ever debut goalscorer.

    The task now is to build on a breakthrough spell carried out at breakneck speed. It would be churlish to back against him.

    Obvious recent benchmarks come in the guise of current and former United players.

    Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen were the last young forwards to explode into the national consciousness, with the first steps for both carried out on enemy territory in Merseyside.

    The former, then just 17, found the back of the net eight times during 37 appearances for Everton during 2002/03, while Owen’s first campaign of regular football at Liverpool during 1997/98 saw 23 goals plundered in 44 matches.

    Rashford needed less than half those games to register the same as Rooney a year before his quantum leap at Euro 2004.

    A similar impact across the English Channel in the coming weeks would be hard to match, yet alone the record 52-goal international tally the 30-year-old now holds.

    Rashford can instead be expected to perform a wildcard role at Euro 2016. Anything more would be a significant bonus to Hodgson.

    Instead, it is Owen’s club figures which are the most pertinent. They will need to be matched, at least, next term for his progression not to be checked.

    A significant historic challenge lies in front of Rashford. No youth product has become a regular fixture up top for United since Mark Hughes, with the Wales great even needing to return after spells at Barcelona and Bayern Munich before his place was cemented.

    Danny Welbeck came closest in the intervening years, yet 29 goals in 142 appearances show why he was sold to Arsenal in September 2014. New boss Jose Mourinho is supposed to be enchanted by Rashford’s development. But the ‘Special One’ neither has a track record of showing patience with youngsters, or possesses the luxury of time in his bid to turn United around.

    If Rashford does not hit the ground running next term, a spot on the bench awaits. Although, his unflappable nature suggests this is not a challenge he will shirk from.

    His growth is not also likely to be unduly harmed if the Portuguese is reunited with Sweden veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Old Trafford.

    The 34-year-old will imbue him further with a ceaseless winning mentality and also not be expected to start every match at No9.

    Chances will arrive to impress.

    And the growing weight of evidence suggests he will have no problem taking them.