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Laura Bradburn

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the footballing world, you may have noticed the impact a certain young Manchester Utd player has been having in recent weeks….. no, days actually.

18 year-old Marcus Rashford has redefined the phrase ‘bursting on to the scene’ with his recent performances in the Europa League against Midtjylland and Arsenal.  Drafted into the side as a late replacement for an injured Anthony Martial, Rashford would go on to score a brace in a 5-1 victory for the Reds.  Only 3 days later, he played and scored another brace in a 3-2 victory over title chasers Arsenal at Old Trafford.

So, to break that down, that’s four goals in two games.  Four goals in a senior career that’s only five days old.  Remarkable stuff.  But what does it mean for the mighty Manchester United?  To consider that, it’s best to go back to the beginning because, as Maria Von Trapp always said, it’s a very good place to start.

The Mirror have done their best, profiling the young starlet in a piece that perfectly sums up what we’re all thinking – Who Is Marcus Rashford?  Hailing from Fletcher Moss Junior FC, who have a tradition in producing players who have gone on to star in the United senior side, Rashford is the most coveted of things – a local lad.  Signed up to United when rivals City were also after him, he went on to become an exciting part of the youth set-up at Carrington.  He’s gone on to make a significant impact both domestically and on the continent in the UEFA Youth League.

But I’m not really here to profile Rashford, as such.  It’s what he represents that’s important to consider.  I could go into detail about United and the course of events that have lead the three-time European Champions to fifth in the EPL table and 12 points behind leaders Leicester.  But let’s face it – that’s been covered.  EVERYWHERE.  What I want to discuss is the scary prospect that Rashford and some of the other young up-and-comers in Red could mean to opponents in England and across Europe.

There are two things the Manchester United brand has become known for in it’s most successful times – homegrown talent and attacking football.  Though it’s been sorely lacking lately, it’s what the most famous iterations of Old Trafford’s greatest sides have been known for.  You only need to mention three words – ‘Class of ’92’ – to prove that’s the case.  Amongst the ranks of one of the greatest youth sides ever to go on and achieve at senior level were the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, the Neville brothers, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes.  Though not all local to the Manchester area, they came up through the ranks together, playing and honing their craft so that, by the time they reached that famed night at the Nou Camp in 1999, they had been playing together for almost a decade.

Rashford, Cameron Bothwick-Jackson, Donald Love and Joe Riley are, again according to the Mirror, part of a plethora of prodigious talents emerging from United’s academy.  Now under the tutelage of Nicky Butt following his recent appointment as Head of Academy at Carrington, there will be cautious but no doubt ever-increasing hope that a new generation may be about to dominate once again for United.  With talents of the likes of Jese Lingard, James Weir and Paddy McNair also showing promise, there appears to be a pool of talent for Louis van Gaal to dip into.

There’s no doubt that any excitement caused by some of these youngster’s performances.  For every Lingard and Rashford, there are the likes of Saido Janko and Tom Thorpe who haven’t faired quite so well.  But what can’t be ignored is that there appears to be a raft of youngsters waiting in the wings to bring back the exciting, dynamic football for which Man Utd have been so well known for throughout their history.  It’s hard to believe that, at the time of writing, we’re only two and a half years into the post-Sir Alex era.  And yet, Reds fans are yearning for the entertainment and excitement that’s been lost in the tenures of both van Gaal and David Moyes.  Whether this rash of new, fresh, young talent will bring the success of previous generations remains to be seen but just the possibility of it is enough the whet the appetite.

(Image sourced from Manchester Evening News article ‘Manchester United’s Youth History Chronicled‘ by Stuart Mathieson in January 2013.)

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