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England Need to Take Manchester United's Marcus Rashford to Euro 2016

Sam Pilger@sampilgerContributing Football WriterApril 25, 2016

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 20:  Marcus Rashford of Manchester United celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Etihad Stadium on March 20, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

The moment belonged to Anthony Martial. In the final minute of the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday, it was the young Frenchman’s burst into the Everton penalty box and clinical finish that delivered Manchester United their first FA Cup final appearance for nine years.

He celebrated by throwing himself into the United fans and thoroughly milked the moment in their collective embrace as his team-mates jumped on top of him.

This was the image, a young man revelling in the moment, that would adorn the following morning’s newspapers, broadcasts and homepages.

But behind this flash of genius from Martial lurked the bigger story of the season: the unexpected and continuing rise of Marcus Rashford.

Manchester United players celebrate with the crowd including Manchester United's English midfielder Jesse Lingard (R), Manchester United's English defender Chris Smalling (3L), Manchester United's Dutch midfielder Daley Blind (2L), Manchester United's Arg
ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

Once again, this time on the famous turf of Wembley, the 18-year-old played with the unnerving natural composure and confidence of a veteran.

Throughout the semi-final, Rashford was a constant threat to Everton with his pace, movement and ability to ghost into dangerous positions in and around the area.

There will be dips and youthful struggles with form, but for the moment the teenager is an utter joy to behold, a player simply showing the football world what he can do.

This was all encapsulated in the moment in the second half when he decided to try a trick and stood on the ball with his right foot before flicking it with his left into the path of Antonio Valencia.

There is no fear to his game; he remains a kid just having fun.

If Rashford were French or Portuguese, it is reasonable to suggest he would be worth around £40 million on the summer transfer market.

He already has a record comparable to what Martial had achieved in Ligue 1 when United were persuaded to sign him from AS Monaco for £36 million last summer.

Tim Ireland/Associated Press

Since scoring twice on his debut against FC Midtjylland, Rashford has also scored twice against Arsenal, the winner in the Manchester derby, a decisive goal against West Ham United in the FA Cup and another winner against Aston Villa nine days ago.

The youngster is not getting tap-ins at the end of routs, he is scoring crucial goals that have directly secured nine points in the Premier League and progress in both the FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League.

Throughout this prolific run, there have been calls for Rashford to be fast-tracked in to the England squad ahead of Euro 2016.

The question is now not whether he should be taken to France but rather how can England afford not to find a place for him in their squad this summer?

Rashford is building a case that is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore.

Before his commanding performance against Everton at the weekend, England manager Roy Hodgson was asked about taking Rashford to France.

“[It is] unlikely,” Hodgson said, per BBC Sport, before adding, “I think it would be a very bold decision to put him in.”

But it is just this boldness that wins tournaments, rather than England’s usual timidity.

DONCASTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 27:  Marcus Rashford of England during the U20 International Friendly match between England and Canada at the Keepmoat Stadium on March 27, 2016 in Doncaster, England.  (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

The experience of Theo Walcott has seemingly stifled any further acts of boldness by England managers over the last decade.

In 2006, Sven Goran Eriksson selected a 17-year-old Walcott for his World Cup squad for Germany, but he quickly regretted it and failed to allow him on the pitch for a single minute of the tournament.

At that stage, Walcott had never played in the Premier League, only in the Championship, and it ultimately proved to be too much, too soon.

But Rashford has a far more compelling case with his goals against Arsenal and Manchester City and performances in Europe and an FA Cup semi-final.

If England had a weaker stable of strikers, Rashford’s inclusion might now be beyond debate, but they are well-stocked at the moment with Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge ahead of him in the queue.

Danny Welbeck should be discounted, as he will go to France as a Hodgson favourite but is considerably more effective out on the wing rather than as a No. 9.

And England’s leading goalscorer Wayne Rooney can no longer be considered a striker. For club and country, he needs to take a step back to play as a No. 10 or midfielder, and after this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final, it is something he has come to accept.

“I’ve known for a few years,” the United and England captain said, per the Times. “I’ve played with and watched Paul Scholes play that role for years and I always knew that one day it’s where I would play, so I’ve tried to learn and watch what he did.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 16:  Marcus Rashford of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal with Wayne Rooney of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on April 16
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

“We’ve got a lot of pace in the team now and I think I can read the game quite well. If I can [get on the ball more], I can free other players up. It’s the right thing to do at this moment in time.”

A player, just like a team, needs momentum going into a tournament, and Rashford's has been building since his debut in February.

This is likely to continue in France, where he could be used effectively as an impact substitute by Hodgson to replace Kane, Vardy or Sturridge.

Hodgson has allowed himself some wriggle room about Rashford's inclusion and last week said, per BBC Sport: “You never know. The fact is it would be foolish to say 'no, no, he is not ready, he can't do it'…I am sure he could do it.”

Hodgson should tell Rashford to cancel his summer holiday and take him to France.

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