Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal seems to be doing his utmost to keep teenage sensation Marcus Rashford grounded, with reports suggesting the striker remains on the periphery of the first team behind the scenes at the club.
That’s according to Steve Bates of the Sunday People (h/t the Sunday Mirror), who said that despite having netted five goals for the Red Devils, including the winner against local rivals Manchester City most recently, Rashford has yet to be fully integrated into the senior squad:
Tough Dutch boss Van Gaal insists Rashford and other first team youngsters like Guillermo Varela, James Weir, Joe Riley, Donald Love and Regan Poole must change in the Under-21 dressing room with their own age groups.
After donning their kit Rashford and the rest of Van Gaal's youngsters then join up with the senior players like David de Gea, Juan Mata, Michael Carrick, Daley Blind, Morgan Schneiderlin and Anthony Martial on the first team training pitch.
When the session is over they then return to the Under-21 dressing room—and it's the same for lunch. The youngsters sit in their own age group while the senior stars lunch together.
Bates went on to quote a source who suggested the reason for the division is to keep Rashford and his young team-mates' feet firmly on the ground. “They have to earn the right to make the next step up with the seniors,” said the source. “They all know the score and are happy with that. Staying with their own age group helps keep them grounded.”
It’s been quite a rise for the 18-year-old Rashford in recent weeks, taking the Premier League by storm with his thrilling forward play. The ability he has showcased will have inevitable consequences, many of which will be life-changing.
Not only will he now be recognised everywhere he goes, but according to Darren Lewis and David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror, Rashford will be offered a bumper new contract that’d see him pick up £10,000 a week.
Additionally, there have also been some calls for the teenager to be fast-tracked to the senior England side, as ESPN FC’s Alex Shaw joked here:
Alex Shaw @AlexShawESPN
If you put Marcus Rashford up there we'll win the Euros, the World Cup, the tiddlywinks, my heart and so on.2016-3-26 21:56:53
Keeping prodigious young players humble amid hyperbole is key, though. That’s a sentiment that has been echoed by England under-21 manager Gareth Southgate, who, after omitting Rashford from his most recent squad, claimed it’s important to manage expectations, per BT Sport Football:
BT Sport Football @btsportfootball
Gareth Southgate explains why @ManUtd striker Marcus Rashford has been omitted from his @england U21 squad. #ENG https://t.co/nP9tf0r5JG2016-3-26 17:53:42
In practice, keeping Rashford away from the senior side in spells sounds like a smart move from United. After all, so much will have changed so quickly, having burst onto the scene so spectacularly at Old Trafford; some normality is important for a player in the nascent stages of his career.
Even for a young man as mature and laid back as he seems, becoming a fully fledged first-team member may prove to be daunting and consequently detrimental to his development. Preserving some consistency in his work behind the scenes will expedite the improvements made in his game and prevent the player from getting wrapped up in the hype his emergence has triggered.