2017 22under22 Countdown – #17: Marcus Rashford

“[Marcus Rashford] is still so young and certainly a great player in the making.”
-Juan Mata


Date of birth: October 31, 1997 (19 years old)
Nationality: English
Position: Striker/Winger
Club Appearances: 36 (9 goals)
International Appearances: 8 (1 goal)
EiF Ability Rating: 62

*EiF Ability Rating is a representation of a combination of the player’s current ability and potential ability. It is determined by multiple rounds of voting, and then an addition of the scores given by each judge. The maximum score a player can have is 80. *


This is the seventh installment of EiF’s 2017 #22under22 project, a countdown in which we will reveal the top 22 players in the world who were born no earlier than 1995. We move to #17 with one of the list’s most promising strikers: Marcus Rashford. Marcus Rashford burst onto the scene halfway through last season and after already scoring 9 goals at age 19 for the Manchester United first team, he is being touted as many as the next English star.

Marcus Rashford has been at United since the age of 5 and last season broke into the first team with some wonderful displays. On his debut in the Europa League Round of 32 against FC Midtjylland, he netted a brace. Just two days later, the youngster repeated the feat against Arsenal, as well as adding an assist in a 3-2 win. His hot form continued and weeks later, Rashford became the youngest scorer in Manchester derby history. Rashford quickly endeared himself to the United faithful as he continued to back up the hype with performances. His performances caught the attention of Roy Hodgson and over the summer, he earned a call-up to the England squad for Euro 2016 to become the youngest English player ever at the Euros. His magnificent breakout season was capped off by finishing as a runner-up in the European Golden Boy competition to Renato Sanches.


Strengths


 

Marcus Rashford celebrates after scoring the winner in his first Manchester derby
Marcus Rashford celebrates after scoring the winner in his first Manchester derby (Photo: The Mirror)

The obvious thing about Rashford that immediately stands out is his speed. The boy is simply lightning quick. He combines his electric pace with his strong dribbling skills to torment defenders, and when he is played as a central striker, his deadly finishing makes him an almost perfect number 9. He is similar to a player like Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, as he hangs on the last shoulder of the last defender and looks to get in behind the defenders and in the channels. However, Rashford possesses more technical and tactical awareness than his England strike partner. Rashford’s movement is so clever that even when he does not receive the ball, he draws the attention of defenders and opens up space for teammates. For a striker, he is also an incredibly gifted passer. Rashford completed 77% of his passes last season, higher than Harry Kane, Olivier Giroud, Vardy, and many other top center forwards. Marcus Rashford has all the tools and potential to become a top-class striker, and United fans must relish the possibility of once again having England’s top striker in their ranks.


Weaknesses


Marcus Rashford after scoring his first England goal
Marcus Rashford celebrating after scoring his first England goal (Photo: The Telegraph)

For all the good qualities Marcus Rashford possesses, his main weakness has to be his strength. At just 19, this is understandable, as he still hasn’t fully grown into his body. However, to make the jump to the next level and begin to establish himself as a top European player, Rashford must become more physically imposing. His lightning pace does sometimes make up for his lack of physique, but improvements would truly make him a top-class striker.

Additionally, despite his over 6-foot frame, Rashford is terrible in the air. Last season, he only won 17% of his aerial duels. For comparison, Antione Griezmann, a much shorter player, managed to win 32% of his aerial duels. The addition of aerial prowess to Rashford’s game could make him even more effective in buildup play, not to mention the added threat of headed goals.


Last season, Rashford showed the world that he can be a top-class striker. The arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Old Trafford has made opportunities harder to come by for the young gun, who has almost exclusively featured from the bench this campaign. As a result, his goal tally has also dwindled. Despite the lack of opportunity, he still plays an important supporting role in the first team. With the future of Zlatan certainly not long term, it won’t be long until Marcus Rashford is leading the line for the Red Devils. If he can keep his head down, avoid distraction, and continue to work on his game, he is certainly on his way to an impressive career.

Previous: #18, the Danish youngster with a killer instinct, Kasper Dolberg.
Next: #16, America’s 18-year-old magician, Christian Pulisic

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