Friday, February 23, 2018
Sports

Only his play is audacious

He is being followed by news crews, is reportedly on the verge of a 10-fold pay rise, and currently is the most talked-about player in English soccer.

The life of 18-year-old Marcus Rashford has certainly changed since the striker shot to stardom by scoring four goals in his first two games for Manchester United over the past week.

And the man who set Rashford on track to be a soccer player is sure the youngster is "mortified" by the attention.

"Marcus is a very, very shy boy. He has more confidence on the pitch than off it," said David Horrocks, the club development officer and skills coach for the Fletcher Moss Rangers in south Manchester.

"He's not a flamboyant sort of bloke. He lets his feet do the showing off."

That's certainly been the case.

Called up for his senior United debut as a late injury replacement, Rashford scored two goals against FC Midtjylland on Thursday to help the team qualify for the last 16 of the Europa League. Then, on Sunday and again at Old Trafford, he scored twice in three minutes to lead United to a 3-2 win over title-chasing Arsenal in the Premier League.

Not bad for a youngster who hadn't previously started a game higher than the under-19 level.

Out of nowhere, English soccer has a new sensation. And United manager Louis van Gaal is pleading for Rashford to be left in peace amid reports in the British media that his salary could soon rise to $21,000 a week.

"When you are in front of his house and that kind of stuff, I don't think it's beneficial for a boy of 18 years old. Give him the time to be 18. And we shall guide him in this way," Van Gaal said Tuesday. "He is a very modest guy, so I don't think that shall be the problem ... I believe he shall keep his feet on the ground."

Horrocks can attest to that.

He can remember Rashford dribbling a soccer ball through the streets on his way to way to practice with Fletcher Moss, where he played from the ages of 5 to 8 before joining United. Rashford's brother, Dwayne, was playing for one of the Fletcher Moss teams and asked if his younger sibling could come along.

"Marcus was a boy who all he wanted to do was play football," Horrocks told the AP. "I wouldn't mind betting now that wherever he is, he's got a football at his feet, juggling it around."

That shows in the way he plays.

Rashford is a striker who drops deep and likes to get involved in play. He'll come to find the ball.

"He's hungry for the ball," Horrocks said.

So, what next for Rashford?

Quite possibly another start for United, against Watford in the Premier League today. Van Gaal must decide whether to keep the teenager on the team even though Anthony Martial, United's big-money signing over the summer, has returned to fitness.

United playmaker Juan Mata has, however, said that Rashford is undroppable at the moment and even compared him to Martial, a French player who himself has been compared to Thierry Henry.

"They both have goals in their pocket," Mata said.

Rashford was back in the classroom on Monday, taking a chemistry exam as part of his studies in the United academy. Horrocks says Rashford has a good academic background that he could fall back on.

The way he's started his soccer career, that probably won't be necessary.

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