Sunderland (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Marcus Rashford made a bold claim for a place at Euro 2016 as the Manchester United sensation took just 135 seconds to became the youngest player to score on his England debut in Friday’s 2-1 win against Australia.
Rashford’s meteoric rise hit new heights when the teenage striker opened the scoring in the Euro 2016 warm-up with a clinical volley at the Stadium of Light.
No player of such a tender age had ever found the net on his England bow and at the age of 18 years and 209 days, Rashford is behind only former Liverpool star Michael Owen (18 years and 164 days) and United captain Wayne Rooney (17 years 317 days) in the list of the youngest scorers in an England shirt.
Rashford has less than a season’s worth of experience, but England manager Roy Hodgson now has strong evidence he is already worthy of featuring at the European Championships.
Rooney came off the bench to score England’s second after the interval before Australia got one back through Eric Dier’s own goal.
But, while Rashford shone, the likes of right-back Nathaniel Clyne and midfielders Jack Wilshere and Danny Drinkwater were less impressive and face a nervous wait to see if they have made the flight to France.
There was also concern over United defender Chris Smalling, who limped off in the second half.
Hodgson, who made eight changes from Sunday’s win over Turkey, has until May 31 to name his final 23-man squad.
Just 92 days ago, Rashford was an unknown yet to play a professional game as he strove to emerge from the youth ranks at Old Trafford.
But he has seized his chance in remarkable fashion, scoring eight goals in 18 United appearances and helping the team win the FA Cup.
With Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge sidelined with a calf problem, Rashford was selected as the 10th youngest player in England history and any thoughts he might be fazed by the latest step in his fairytale career were erased in the third minute.
– Bashful –
Receiving possession 25 yards from goal, Rashford moved the ball onto Raheem Sterling before advancing into the penalty area.
When Sterling’s cross deflected off Bailey Wright and looped high into the air, Rashford adjusted his stride and hit a close-range volley that flashed under Australia goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.
Rashford’s bashful expression as he emerged from a huddle of his jubilant team-mates gave the impression his historic strike was nothing out of the ordinary for a kid who grew up in the modest Manchester suburb of Wythenshawe.
In contrast, Rooney, watching from the bench, was beaming from ear to ear and the comparisons between the United striker and his young protégé will continue to grow.
Fittingly, Rashford’s international debut came against the same Australian opposition Rooney faced when he made his England bow.
And Rooney had scored his first international goal when England last played at the Stadium of Light, against Turkey in 2003.
Jose Mourinho, newly installed as United manager, will know he has a real talent on his hands in Rashford.
Yet the teenager remains understandably raw and wasted a chance for a second goal with a poor first touch after Sterling’s pass picked him out.
England, at times sloppy in defence and careless in possession, weren’t flawless either.
But Rooney and James Milner came on for Lallana and Wilshere at half-time to restore order and the captain netted in the 55th minute.
Sterling rampaged down the left and picked out Rooney, who lashed a blistering finish into the roof of the net from the edge of the area for his 52nd international goal.
Rashford departed to a standing ovation in the 63rd minute before Australia reduced the deficit 12 minutes later.
Tottenham’s Dier dived to clear Alex Wilkinson’s cross but instead headed the ball into his own net.