Marcus Rashford is a special talent whose record at his age compares favourably not just with Harry Kane but with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Southgate believes.
The England manager also argued that Jose Mourinho “thinks the world” of Rashford, even though the striker has grown frustrated at the number of starts he has made at Manchester United, especially in his favoured role of centre-forward.
Rashford’s importance to Englandwas underlined by his predatory goal in the unconvincing 1-0 friendly victory over Switzerland on Tuesday. It followed on from his strike against Spain last Saturday as Rashford pushed his case to be a regular starter for his country.
“Yes he is,” Southgate said when asked whether Rashford, 20, was a special talent. “I think Harry at that age had hardly played anywhere near the matches for Spurs.
“Some of the stepovers and things Ronaldo was doing at that age, he wasn’t converting them into the number of goals, so we have got to give him time to develop.
“He has still played a lot of football, although maybe not the continuous starts and I’m really pleased for him that he leaves here full of confidence.”
Comparisons with Kane and Ronaldo are possibly over the top but, in essence, Southgate is correct. Rashford made his United debut in February 2016 in the Europa League and scored twice. At just 18 years and 141 days, he became the youngest scorer for United in European competition and landmarks and records tumbled after that: scoring on his debut in the Premier League, the Champions League and League Cup, and in his first appearances for the England Under-21s and the England senior team – the youngest player to achieve that. He also became the first teenager in the Premier League era to score in his first Manchester derby.
Rashford claimed nine goals in 21 appearances in that first half-season but he has since endured fallow periods. For example, after six goals in seven games last autumn, he scored just twice in the next 19.
Even so, at the same age – 20 years and 317 days – Ronaldo had hit the back of the net 32 times for club and country. Rashford has scored 37 goals.