Monday 23 October 2017

Marcus Rashford open to dropping back to Under-21 level if required this summer

Marcus Rashford scored a hat-trick on his only previous appearance for England Under-21s
Marcus Rashford scored a hat-trick on his only previous appearance for England Under-21s

Marcus Rashford would be keen to represent England Under-21s at this summer's European Championship if the powers that be decide that is best for his development.

In the 13 months since bursting onto the scene so remarkably, the 19-year-old has racked up 56 appearances for Manchester United, won seven caps and established himself as one of the country's most exciting talents.

Rashford was fast-tracked into Roy Hodgson's Euro 2016 squad and he could well be involved in continental competition again this summer, at the Under-21 European Championship in Poland.

The striker scored a hat-trick on his one and only U21s appearance to date and would have been with the Young Lions rather than Gareth Southgate's senior side this week were it not for injuries to Harry Kane and Daniel Sturridge.

Instead, Rashford could now start Sunday's World Cup qualifier against Lithuania - ahead of which the forward expressed an openness to dropping back down to the U21s in the summer.

"It is up to the coaching staff and the managers to decide if I go to that," he said in an interview with BBC Radio 5 live and talkSPORT.

"But if I do go, I'll be approaching it with the same attitude as I do to the seniors. It is exciting times.

"Getting tournament experience is massive, as long as everything is aiming towards the long-term objective, we obviously want to be successful and win trophies.

"So whatever we have to do to get to that, whether it is going down to gain the experience, everyone is happy to do that."

Whether United boss Jose Mourinho is as open to that is another matter given the Red Devils' bloated schedule until the end of the campaign.

It has, Rashford says, been a "season full of ups and downs" for club and country, giving the striker precious little time to take stock of his incredible ascent.

"Time goes very fast and it is about what you do in that time," he said.

"All my focus is just on trying to improve for the future and to make history for my club and the country.

"On the journey, as the year goes by, sometimes you look back and you think about what has happened in the past, but at this stage you are fully focused on what you need to do in the future."

As Rashford revealed that mentality is shared by those around him, saying "I think it is needed if you want to be the best", and there appears little chance of complacency or arrogance seeping in.

The teenager spoke with confidence and drive, with "more trophies" the concise response when asked what he would like to have achieved in 12 months' time.

Rashford spoke on a variety of matters during a wide-ranging interview, from the lessons learned during England's chastening Euro 2016 exit to the way he has changed as a player since his outstanding club debut against FC Midtjylland last February.

"I'm a completely different player now compared to where I was this time last season," he said.

"People don't always look at that. They look at the results but they don't look at what you do to get the results. When it all comes together people will start to realise."

Pushed on what has changed, Rashford said: "My overall game.

"I've been playing in wider positions and now me knowing what the forwards wants helps me, and also helps me know that the winger wants when I get in the middle.

"The modern-day forward and attacker is not just a number nine, or number 10, or just a winger. It is someone who can interchange between the positions if they are needed to.

"I think I'm a number nine but if I have to move to other positions for certain games it is what you have to do and it is part of your attributes."

Rashford was full of praise for those around him during this key stage of his career, saying that Mourinho "has everything under control" at United and Southgate's appointment means younger players can realistically aim for the senior team.

As for team-mates, he spoke of Wayne Rooney's "massive presence" for players of all ages and the invaluable lessons Zlatan Ibrahimovic has taught.

"It's a massive influence having those type of players around the building," Rashford said when asked about the veteran Swede and United's top scorer.

"Being at a club like Manchester United and playing for England, there are always going to be top players around you and it is important to learn from them.

"That is what they want to do too - they want to help you. And it is good to have them in the squad."

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