Top Tenner: Marcus Rashford inspires a look at promising youngsters
With Marcus Rashford having made an instant impact at Manchester United, we look at some of the youngsters who have arrived with a bang, whether their career went on to be as successful or not...
10. Marcus Rashford
There's a sense that Marcus Rashford could provide an impetus, a spark to ignite something in this most depressing of Manchester United seasons so far, when they haven't so much suffered disappointing results as a lack of really anything to get excited about. Rashford, this 18-year-old local lad who scored twice on his debut and then got another two more against Arsenal a few days later just for good measure, could provide that. Although the cruel and cynical might wonder how many Louis van Gaal training sessions it will take to knock the youthful joy and spontaneity out of him. Still, for the moment he is all potential, everything is laid out in front of him: whether he will simply be remembered for this extraordinary start to his career or for what he will achieve in the next 15 years probably shouldn't be discussed at the moment, and we should just appreciate the remarkable things this young man is doing now.
On Aug. 31, 1997, two South Americans made their debuts for Inter Milan: Ronaldo, just purchased from Barcelona for a world record fee of $27 million (£19m), was the highest profile, but it was the other new boy, a 21-year-old Uruguayan signed from Nacional, that made the biggest impact. Alvaro Recoba started that game against Brescia on the bench, and by the time he came on Inter were 1-0 down to a Dario Hubner goal. Recoba promptly equalised then won the game, firstly with a piledriver from a faintly absurd angle from the left corner of the box, then from a 30-yard free-kick that whistled through the northern Italian air and straight into the top corner. Recoba would be something of an enigma throughout his career, but as upstagings go, this was a cracker.
Perhaps the only surprise about Patrick Kluivert scoring the winning goal in the 1995 Champions League final, aged just 18, was that he did so coming off the bench. Kluivert had scored on his debut for Ajax at the start of the 1994-95 season, in the Dutch Super Cup against old rivals Feyenoord. He found the net a further 20 times that season before the final against AC Milan. Louis van Gaal selected the more experienced Ronald de Boer up front for the final, but brought Kluivert on with 20 minutes to go. With five minutes remaining, the youngster collected a pass from Frank Rijkaard, made a little space and poked the ball into the corner of the net to win the trophy for Ajax. The remainder of his career would never quite live up to that early promise, but what career could?
Few knew much of Federico Macheda before Sir Alex Ferguson threw him on, as something of a Hail Mary pass as Manchester United chased the league title in 2009. Macheda replaced Nani as United were 2-1 down to Aston Villa, and after Cristiano Ronaldo had levelled the game the ball fell to Macheda, aged just 17, on the left side of the box as the clock ticked into the 93rd minute. He produced a majestic spin to wrong-foot Luke Young, then curled the ball into the far corner. "He now has a job on his hands to ensure that the goal does not overshadow the rest of his career," reported the Guardian at the time, but alas that's exactly what happened: seven years, six clubs, 141 appearances and just 26 goals later, he's no closer to eclipsing that moment.
6) Jimmy Greaves
Jimmy Greaves was infamous for scoring on his debuts -- for Chelsea, AC Milan, Tottenham, West Ham and England -- but it's his first that was perhaps the most impressive, netting for Chelsea at just 17 years old. The goal salvaged a point in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham, and he would go on to score another 21 goals in that opening campaign. The Times shrewdly noted that Greaves "may have a rich future," a prediction he immediately proved correct by scoring three in his next two games, eventually moving to Italy four years later having scored 124 times for Chelsea.
5. Bobby Charlton
When he first started on the path to professional football, Bobby Charlton's mother was understandably cautious about her boy taking up such an unreliable profession, so much so that she insisted he take an apprenticeship as an electrical engineer. Indeed, when he made his debut for United against, oddly enough, Charlton at 18, he was only a part-time footballer as he was completing his National Service. That didn't stop him from making a pretty instant impact, scoring twice on his debut against the team with his namesake, and a further 12 times in 14 games during that first season. "Three weeks before, I'd been injured at Maine Road in a reserve match," said Charlton of his debut. "I twisted the ligaments in my right ankle -- it's still bigger now. It took me two weeks to start running again...It was sore as hell, not when I ran, but when I turned on it or tried to kick the ball. But I knew I had to get in. I was desperate....I never kicked the ball with my right foot all day."
4. Gigi Buffon
The most obvious way to make an immediate impact is to score a goal or two, but that isn't quite as much of an option for goalkeepers. Nevertheless, Gigi Buffon managed it on his debut for Parma, aged just 17 and thrown in, it's fair to say, at the deep end. In his first game he was tasked with keeping out an AC Milan side that featured Zvonimir Boban, Roberto Baggio and George Weah, with Marco Simeone as a substitute for good measure. But keep them out he did, playing with a remarkable confidence and assuredness for a keeper so young, deflecting the best these legends the game could throw at him.
3. Alan Shearer
Alan Shearer wasn't supposed to be playing against Arsenal in April 1988, but after a late Rod Wallace injury the 17-year-old with only a few minutes of first-team football to his name was thrust into the action. Within four minutes he'd opened the scoring, and just after half-time he'd completed his hat trick, breaking Jimmy Greaves' 30-year-old record for being the youngest player to score a treble in the English top flight. He also became the first player since 1967 to score a hat trick on his debut, a feat last achieved by Colin Viljoen of Ipswich. Curiously after that he didn't find the net for 16 months, playing 10 goalless games the following season and finally only really breaking into the first team in the 1989-90 season. A few years later, he was sold for a record fee to Blackburn, and from there he did pretty well.
2. Wayne Rooney
"Remember the name!" commanded commentator Clive Tyldesley. Whatever opinions you might have on how Wayne Rooney's career has panned out in the last 14 years, we certainly do. Arsenal were on a relentless unbeaten run when they arrived at Goodison Park in October 2002, defending champions and not defeated in 30 games, and going into the closing minutes it looked like that would continue. Then the bull of a child that Rooney was plucked the ball from the sky with perfect control, did a virtual 360 degree turn before curling the ball home from 30 yards, in off the bar and past a helpless David Seaman. "He's supposed to be 16," said Arsene Wenger after the game, disbelieving, as many people were.
1. Robbie Fowler
"You saw a young man today who could be anything he wants in football," said Graeme Souness about Robbie Fowler, after Liverpool beat Southampton 4-2 in October 1993. The reason for his effusive praise was that Fowler, playing his fifth game of senior league football and 18 years old, had just scored a hat trick past Tim Flowers. At that point, he was one of the highest-rated goalkeepers in England. This was a few weeks after he'd scored on his senior debut against Fulham in the first leg of a League Cup tie, and then in the second game he scored five. He scored 12 goals in his first 13 games, and finished as Liverpool's leading goalscorer for the season, finding the net more frequently than even Ian Rush. Quite the instant impact.
Nick Miller is a football writer for ESPN FC, the Guardian, Eurosport and a number of other publications. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.