Sunderland: Roy Hodgson insisted Marcus Rashford’s dream debut for England came as no surprise after the Manchester United sensation staked his claim for a Euro 2016 place with a record-breaking strike in a 2-1 win over Australia.
England manager Hodgson had claimed the world would be watching to see if Rashford could cope with the pressure of what amounted to a one-game audition for a place in his final 23-man squad for the Euros.
And Rashford took just 135 seconds to deliver an emphatic response as the teenage striker’s lethal volley opened the scoring in Friday’s Euro 2016 warm-up at the Stadium of Light.
No player of such a tender age had ever found the net on his England debut and at the age of 18 years and 209 days, Rashford is behind only former Liverpool star Michael Owen (18 years and 164 days) and United captain Wayne Rooney (17 years 317 days) in the list of the youngest scorers in an England shirt.
Rashford’s meteoric rise is starting to resemble the memorable performances delivered by both Owen and Rooney early in their England careers.
Both made their names by dazzling as teenagers at major tournaments — Owen at the 1998 World Cup and Rooney at Euro 2004 — and Rashford looks capable of following in their footsteps after netting at the same venue where Rooney scored his first England goal 13 years ago.
Hodgson, who has until May 31 to axe three players from his 26-man provisional squad, wouldn’t confirm Rashford had done enough to seal his seat on the flight to France.
But his glowing response to questions about the youngster suggested he can dig out his passport.
“The subject of Marcus Rashford, I guess, will chop a few trees down tomorrow,” Hodgson said.
“I was asked if I was nervous about putting him and if he could handle the situation. I wasn’t nervous or surprised with how he played.
“He tired a little in the second half but that’s normal for your debut. I asked in the build-up if he was up to playing at international level and we got a resounding yes from him.
“I’m pleased. We changed from the diamond (formation) to see if he could play in the wider positions and that was a further advantage.
“He was always one of the players who was seriously competing for a place in the 23 and he’s done his chances of travelling with us no harm.”
– Game changer -Just three months ago, Rashford, who earns only £1,500-a-week ($2,200, 2,000 euros) and drives a relatively modest Audi, was an unknown yet to play a professional game as he strove to emerge from the youth ranks at Old Trafford.
But he has seized his chance in remarkable fashion, scoring eight goals in 18 United appearances and helping the team win the FA Cup.
Rashford, from the unassuming Manchester suburb of Wythenshawe, has now scored with his first shot in the Premier League and with his first attempt in an England shirt, making him the kind of game-changer Hodgson sounds keen to harness.
Rashford’s cause is helped by the calf injury that ruled Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge out of the Australia match.
Sturridge has struggled with injuries to such an extent that he has played only 58 minutes for England since 2014 and, with Rooney, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy guaranteed of their spots, he could miss out on the Euros if Hodgson decides to take just four strikers.
Sturridge will attempt to save his berth by taking part in a full training session on Monday and Hodgson said: “Nothing changes. I will have two or three more sleepless nights before I submit my list on Tuesday.
“I know Daniel Sturridge. If it turns out that the injury would keep him out for the (Euro 2016) game against Russia, that might make a difference, but I have no indication it’s that serious.”