Following the disaster that was the England national team in France this past summer, it was hard to single out any English player for praise with one exception: 18-year-old Marcus Rashford. Rashford made only two substitute appearances in France, but was far and away England’s best player both times he stepped on the field, changing the game in England’s favor both times.
Earlier this week it was announced that Rashford would be dropped from the England senior squad when he was called up to the U21 squad. The rational makes sense. At the time, Rashford had yet to make an appearance for Manchester United so his inclusion in the squad could have been questioned.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho agreed with the decision. In an interview with MUTV, he commented on how not only did he agree with the decision but it would be better for Rashford to play for the U21 team instead of just sitting on the bench for the senior side.
But there is also an argument to be made that not only should Rashford be on the England team but that he should be starting for it. Rashford came on as a substitute for Manchester United on Saturday and was up to his usual tricks. His introduction changed the game, giving United a much more attacking look and over the last 20 minutes he was their most threatening player. The game had a familiar ending as Rashford scored the winner in the second minute of injury time.
Rashford’s good play has been a continuance of his entire year. Since breaking into the first team in February, Rashford has never had a down period. He was United’s bright spot in the second half of the season, he scored on his England debut and followed that up with very impressive performances in France. After the tournament he was tremendous in the preseason and scored another winner his first United appearance of the season. There may not be a player in England with more confidence than Rashford.
Compare that with the strikers that are in England’s team. For starters, Daniel Sturridge hasn’t exactly been playing either. He’s started just one of Liverpool’s four games and all his appearances have come out on the right wing.
If one based things on current form, dating all the way back to the tail end of last season, Rashford not only deserves to be on the team but should be starting over current first choice striker Harry Kane. That’s not to say Kane isn’t a good striker, or that Rashford is better than him. Kane is a fantastic striker, one of the best in the Premier League. However, right now Rashford is playing better than Kane.
Kane was a shell of himself at the Euros this summer and hasn’t exactly regained his form in the first three games with Tottenham this season. Rashford, on the other hand, has been changing every game he enters and that’s the kind of play that deserves to be rewarded.
International soccer is a funny game. Managers often speak like players will be picked on a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately basis, but the reality is until an injury clears a path for a young player, players usually keep their place in the team based on historically having that place in the team. We see it all the time with Jurgen Klinsmann’s continued selection of Jozy Altidore and Gyasi Zardes for the USMNT, and we are now starting to see it with Harry Kane and England.
At the moment, Kane is simply in a rough spell. He’ll snap out of it because he is a very talented striker. He’s going to keep his place on the England team right now. Eventually, whether it be in September or October, he’s going to find his form with Tottenham and he’s going to start scoring at the high rate were used to. That form will carry over to his country as well and in a few months no one will even be questioning Kane as England’s first choice striker.
But this isn’t a few months from now. This is right now, with an important World Cup qualifier in September. And right now, if England had one game and had to pick their most game-changing striker, they should pick Rashford.