Marcus Rashford Makes Manchester United Debut: Key Details on Teenage Striker

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2016

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Marcus Rashford of Man United during the FA Youth Cup Fifth Round match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on February 09, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Marcus Rashford scored two goals on his Manchester United debut against FC Midtjylland in the UEFA Europa League at Old Trafford on Thursday, having replaced Anthony Martial, who was injured in the warm-up.

His goals helped United beat the Danish side 5-1 on the night and 6-3 on aggregate and progress to the last 16 stage of the tournament.

Juan Mata and Guillermo Varela assists helped Rashford to get off the mark in a two-leg fixture which United were losing 2-1 after their defeat in Denmark. BT Sport relayed the highlight of the 18-year-old's first goal:

Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball

Rashford with a dream debut goal in front of the @ManUtd faithful. Game on at Old Trafford. #UEL #MUFC https://t.co/lvMoOOk2uy

Here's his second goal, per the same source:

Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball

Some debut this! Rashford bags his second goal to give @ManUtd a 4-3 lead on aggregate. #UEL https://t.co/1JFvT78ZO4

After the game, United manager Louis van Gaal described how he told the inexperienced frontman to adjust his game to really punish the Midtjylland defence, according to the club's official site:

Manchester United @ManUtd

Boss on Rashford: "In the first half he ran too much out wide and I said he needs to be in front of goal to score. It's fantastic for him."

The Old Trafford chief was also keen to keep things in perspective, even though he hailed Rashford's achievements on the night, per Goal's Kris Voakes: “I have said already a lot of times that is fantastic but you have to be consistent. We are looking for consistent strikers and there are not so many on this earth, but he made a great performance I think.”

Van Gaal had been forced to include Rashford at the 11th hour to replace Martial, who pulled out late with a hamstring injury, per BT Sport.

Van Gaal called Rashford "the natural substitute" for speedy Frenchman Martial, via Voakes.

The club confirmed his inclusion:

Manchester United @ManUtd

PIC: Young striker Marcus Rashford is making his #mufc debut tonight. https://t.co/xaXBSVxNaF

Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News described how Rashford is the latest find from famed Fletcher Moss junior football club. It's an institution where former United academy graduates Danny Welbeck, Wes Brown and Tyler Blackett also got their starts.

Rashford originally made his debut in an FA Youth Cup game against Leicester City during the 2013/14 campaign, according to United's official site.

The official site also noted how he went on to help the Red Devils win 2014's Milk Cup and described the youthful striker as "an exciting prospect with fine balance and a powerful shot."

Tellingly, though, the same source revealed how striker may not be the jet-heeled youth's best position: "Perhaps more comfortable operating in the hole between midfield and attack, the Manchester-born starlet managed to hold down a pretty regular place towards the end of that campaign."

Still, Rashford has continued learning his craft as a natural striker. He's earned plaudits from youth coaches, including ex-U18 boss Paul McGuinness who said, via the official website"One we saw starting to emerge as he grew into his body more was Marcus Rashford. He put some exciting parts of games together and we saw some exciting things. He's emerging and starting to do more."

That progression has seen Rashford move into the U21 group this season. United relayed a highlight of his first goal for the U21s:

Manchester United @ManUtd

Marcus Rashford has impressed so far. Here's his first goal for #mufc's Under-21s, against Leicester in December. https://t.co/iDyLOSrbAw

Rashford's appearance is an enforced change that will further stretch manager Louis van Gaal's already wafer-thin squad. Skipper Wayne Rooney is already unavailable to lead the attack, but right now, the youngster has started his senior career memorably.

But asking him to be United's main man up front in the upcoming games in the Premier League, may be too much of a responsibility for a player so young. Van Gaal and United must take a steady approach and temper the inevitable hype Rashford's admittedly excellent debut will create.