MARCUS RASHFORD arrived on the Manchester United stage by a glorious accident – just like his current managers at Club and Country.
A knee injury from Wayne Rooney, a late departure from Anthony Martial and a striker who was ‘born and raised in Manc’ was pushed into United’s starting line-up for the Europa League game against Danish club Midtjylland.
But the local in question should have been Will Keane – twin brother of England defender Michael.
Will, who was five years older than Rashford, was on the verge of making his first-team debut after several loan changes.
With Louis Van Gaals United missing at least one striker in the 2015/16 season, Keane had made a couple of substitutions but he too was hit by injury.
So type Rashford – ‘Marcus who?’ to all of us who were at Old Trafford that night – to see if United can avoid embarrassment after a 2-1 first-leg defeat in Denmark.
It was Rashford’s Sliding Doors moment.
Suddenly the 18-year-old boy, who had started that season in the youth team rather than reserves, was Manchester United’s centre-forward.
A talented teenager climbing through the ranks at a top six club is often whispered about before breaking through to the first team.
But no one saw him coming.
Rashford – who famously won his battle with Boris Johnson to feed hungry children at Christmas – scored twice on his first-team debut and then twice on his Premier League debut to end Arsenal’s title hopes in a 3-2 win to deal a devastating blow.
He then snatched the only goal at Etihad in his first Manchester derby.
He would score on his England debut and also on his Champions League debut – displaying the supreme calm he needed in stoppage time at the Parc des Princes when United pulled off a miracle in March 2019.
That penalty to cap off an amazing Champions League comeback against Paris St Germain was the first penalty Rashford ever took for United.
After a mysterious VAR call gave United their chance, Paris Saint-Germain’s veteran dark artists tried every trick to distract him and Rashford buried it.
Once again, United found themselves in the midst of an injury crisis in Europe. Rashford had stepped forward again.
According to Solskjaer, both Rashford and Romelu Lukaku were on punishment duty that night and were asked to fight it out between them.
Rashford later revealed Lukaku let him take the penalty so he could make headlines.
He would probably never miss it. Rashford is no nerves. But United had never experienced that injury crisis in February 2016, who knows?
He wasn’t destined for a breakthrough this season and then came Jose Mourinho – hardly a man prone to bleeding unproven children – along with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. A year later £75m Lukaku.
However talented, Rashford could have drifted off – like Will Keane, currently at Wigan.
Or like that other United kid who made his debut against Midtjylland, full-back Joe Riley – now in League Two Carlisle.
Rashford was always gifted with outstanding ball skills, but physically he was a late developer.
And the X-Factor for any forward is the ability to deliver under pressure – a quality that can’t be measured until he’s given a first-team opportunity.
Those two and a half years under Mourinho have not been a complete wasteland.
Rashford continued to play regularly but mostly on the wing – and it never felt like the Portuguese believed in him.
His disgusted reaction when Rashford missed a chance against Young Boys in the Champions League group stage seemed to sum up their relationship.
But even before he was appointed caretaker of United, Solskjaer had recognized a kindred goalscoring spirit in Rashford.
Four years ago he had encouraged the young Englishman to regain the calm in front of goal that had given him his breakthrough.
As soon as Solskjaer took over as caretaker, Rashford was revived.
He scored Norway’s first goal after just three minutes in Cardiff, then scored again against Bournemouth.
Although his superb assist for Paul Pogba was the highlight of that game, United were clearly rediscovering his zest for life.
England boss Southgate, like Solskjaer, stumbled into his current job as a happy caretaker after suffering relegation in his previous job in the Premier League.
And despite missing a crucial penalty in the Euro 2020 final, he still remains an important part of the Three Lions’ future plans.
Opportunism is a crucial factor in top-flight football. Solskjaer and Southgate both recognize that quality in Rashford.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/football/premier-league/1763822/marcus-rashford-man-utd-wigan/ How Marcus Rashford benefited from Sliding Doors moment at Man Utd, or he could play for Wigan – The US Sun