When Marcus Rashford put pen-to-paper on his new contract, he commented that Manchester United means everything to him.
The homegrown product, one of several shining lights from the club’s Academy, is a role model for all those within the system who are dreaming of pulling on the famous red shirt at Old Trafford.
At 21, he is already leading the line for club and country, and will carry on doing so for the foreseeable future as he continues his development as a striker.
Being fortunate enough to speak to many of the people who have worked with Marcus along the way, it becomes clear his attitude is one that is capable of taking him to the very top.
His determination to take on the responsibility for pressure-cooker penalties with United and England speaks volumes for his character.
“Marcus is a shining example of the talent that our Academy produces and his upbringing means that he truly understands what it means to play for Manchester United.”Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Colin Little, the Under-18s assistant coach who helped hone Rashford’s shooting skills, told me: “He’s taken some penalties at a crucial time and is building up a lot of experiences, big experiences for someone so young. You can only see that further down the line. As a 25-year-old, you can only imagine he is going to have everything he needs, I’m sure.”
Of course, Rashford will pass that age as a Red after extending his deal on Monday. When you consider he is still a long way off his peak years, there is every reason to expect him to mature into a complete centre-forward.
Some of his stats last term were extraordinary, in terms of sprints and the amount of pressing he did from the front. Even when clearly picking up a heavy knock in the home game against Liverpool, he persevered, as the three first-half substitutions ended up being made, and that illustrated his commitment to the cause. This was not the time to leave United down to 10 men against our fiercest rivals.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has declared that his front man knows exactly what it means to represent this great club. That match against Liverpool in February proved this but, as someone who has grown up a Red, it was not a surprise.
Physically and mentally, as that injury-time spot-kick at Paris Saint-Germain indicated, he is ticking the right boxes.
Ole wants hungry individuals who are hell bent on working harder than the opposition and Marcus fits the bill perfectly. Not only on the pitch but off it too, he displays the characteristics of a traditional United footballer.
“He’s humble,” commented Academy coach Eamon Mulvey, the head of the foundation phase. “Ole, as the boss now, is humble. You see the players from the Class of ’92 – they’re humble. It’s what the club is all about. It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world and you’ve got to be a superstar, and do that on the pitch, but actually the old manager used to talk about Matt Busby, going back to winning humbly and losing graciously. The way Marcus carries himself, he’s a cool customer but humble.
”Every time he speaks in interviews, it’s about what he can learn, what opportunities he can do next. When he comes into the canteen, the first thing he does is he comes straight over and says hello to us and the lads. He knows it means a lot. Little things cost you nothing. He’s picked up little messages all along the way. It costs you nothing to be nice. He’s turned out to be a really good lad.“
Academy programme advisor Tony Whelan added: “He’s a superb role model for all young players. It’s just his hard work, dedication and general demeanour. The way he walks about the football club. He is friendly, open and always approachable. He says ‘hi’ to people, just as he did as a kid. He’s no different. He hasn’t changed one bit.
”He’s a standard bearer for any young players who can aspire to achieve what he can achieve. He’s proved he can do it. A local lad from just down the road in Manchester, being homegrown is really, really special.”
The platform is there for Marcus to push on in 2019/20. The manager and everybody at the club has faith that he will deliver and help the Reds improve on a disappointing campaign.