Manchester United's Marcus Rashford for England at Euro 2016?
Manchester United's 18-year-old striker Marcus Rashford has been in great form since arriving on the scene and has five goals in his eight games this season. But is his form enough to get him on the plane for England at Euro 2016?
We asked England correspondent Nick Miller, and Man United blogger Musa Okwonga for their thoughts.
Should Roy Hodgson consider Rashford at Euro 2016?
MO: It's probably a little too soon for that. There are just too many good forwards -- [Wayne] Rooney, [Jamie] Vardy, [Harry] Kane, [Daniel] Sturridge, [Theo] Walcott -- ahead of him in the queue. Not to mention Danny Welbeck, who has just returned from injury for Arsenal. Rashford is an exceptional talent, but the memory of what happened to Walcott at the 2006 World Cup still looms large. He had played barely a dozen games of professional football before he was selected for that squad ahead of established and prolific strikers, and Sven-Goran Eriksson failed to give him a single minute of playing time in Germany. If Rashford were to go, it is uncertain whether Hodgson would have the courage to include him.
NM: Sure, why not? As Musa says there are a good few forwards available to Hodgson so he probably won't need to, but there's plenty to be said for a wildcard option; a player who still has some sort of youthful brio and excitement. I think excitement is the key word there. England have been a collection of 'Who cares?' players at recent international tournaments. Can you remember the last time England took a player to a tournament who was both genuinely exciting and you thought could make a real difference? Probably Rooney in 2004. If nothing else, you could make an argument that England need to get what they can from Rashford before Louis van Gaal hammers the joy out of him or Jose Mourinho sends him on loan to Levante. The sensible option is to leave him at home, to wait until he's "ready," but why not consider him?
On form and fitness, is there a case for Rashford over Rooney?
MO: No. If Rashford were to be in the squad, it would have to be ahead of a far less experienced player than the captain. Rooney is not only the most experienced player in that dressing-room, he is one of the most decisive for his team at this level (in the European Championship, anyway). Not to forget the media storm that would roll Rashford's way if he was included ahead of a player many people still idolise. Having Rooney in the squad would provide leadership both on and off the pitch; Rashford could not replace that, and should not be expected to. Not to mention they'd have to find another captain.
NM: Fitness is the crucial word there. Again, the sensible option would be to select Rooney, but fitness is huge. We don't yet know what state Rooney will be in come the summer, and the last thing England need to do is pick him if he's half-fit just because he's the captain and most experienced player. They've made that mistake before, with him and others, and one of the advantages of England not really having one outstanding player is that they don't need to gamble on anyone. If Rooney isn't 100 percent by the end of the season, someone like Rashford could come into it.
What qualities would Rashford bring to the England side?
MO: In his few games for United he has shown exceptional acceleration, a very fine touch, an even surer finish, and an ability to combine well with his fellow forwards. He would bring tactical flexibility, given that he can operate either centrally or on the flanks, and he is also extremely good at pressing the ball, closing down centre-backs with pace and also the intelligence to block off their passing lanes. He is also excellent in the air, which would make him a danger at set-pieces.
NM: Pace, confidence, inventiveness and the knack of being in the right place (his goals against FC Midtjylland and Arsenal came about due to his positioning), plus the sort of youthful naivety that could be useful and he won't have for much longer. He's actually the perfect sort of player for this England squad, assuming Hodgson sticks with that loose 4-3-3 formation, because he can play anywhere across that front line and offer different things in every position. We probably haven't seen quite enough of Rashford to properly assess his abilities, but what we have seen is hugely promising.
Hodgson should take the following forwards to Euro 2016: ____________________
MO: Kane, Rooney, Vardy, Sterling, Sturridge and Walcott.
Kane is superb at pressing from the front, winning the ball back as well as any striker in the Premier League, and has an impressive range of finishing. Rooney brings the experience of having starred in this tournament before and should be fresh enough to produce decisive form. Vardy offers exceptional speed on the break and ruthlessness in front of goal, needing very few chances to make a difference. Sturridge leads the line as well as Kane, his fitness the only thing that lets him down, and Walcott is not only still one of the fastest players in the squad but also provides excellent support from the flanks, as does Sterling. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is an option, but probably hasn't done enough to warrant inclusion, or might get in as a versatile midfielder.
NM: Kane, Rooney, Vardy, Sturridge, Sterling and Welbeck.
Despite having broadly argued in his favour, I wouldn't pick Rashford if everyone is injury-free, simply because England do have a number of other more proven options. Given the formation, Hodgson needs six forwards: if Rooney is 100 percent he should probably still go; Sturridge likewise; Kane and Vardy have 40 league goals between them and Welbeck has always played well for England. I would leave Walcott as he's faded badly in the second half of the season and, while Sterling hasn't been brilliant, he offers everything Walcott could do plus a bit more. The added bonus is you could probably throw any combination of those players into a front three and they could work together. But if any one of these is injured, Rashford could be the next best option along with Oxlade-Chamberlain.