Rashford's 100-day rush from unknown to rising star
WHEN Anthony Martial limped forlornly towards the Old Trafford tunnel, it set Marcus Rashford off on a meteoric rise from unknown teenager to the rising star of England's Euro 2016 challenge in less than 100 days.
Martial suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up before Manchester United's Europa League tie against FC Midtjylland in February. Rashford was the unexpected beneficiary as Louis van Gaal handed the 18-year-old his professional debut.
Rashford's lowly status was such in the United pecking order that, but for injuries to Wayne Rooney, Adnan Januzaj and Will Keane, he would not even have been on the bench.
Displaying blistering pace, clever movement and a maturity beyond his tender years, Rashford's predatory instincts went on full display. He struck twice in 12 minutes to inspire United's 5-1 victory, prompting van Gaal to describe his performance as "unbelievable".
Even the scouts who spotted his potential could not have predicted Rashford would break a record previously held by the legendary George Best.
The brace against Midtjylland made him United's youngest ever scorer in European competition, but it was no flash in the pan.
On his Premier League debut against Arsenal three days later, Rashford scored with his first shot, then netted again in the 3-2 victory.
The fairytale had another chapter in March when Rashford, who still lives with his mother Mel, bagged the winner at Manchester City, making him the youngest scorer in a Manchester derby in the Premier League era.
By the time Rashford walked off the Wembley pitch with an FA Cup winners medal around his neck after United's victory over Crystal Palace last month, he was already entrenched as one of his club's most important players.
Even England manager Roy Hodgson could not resist the prodigy's appeal.
After initially playing down talk of selecting Rashford, Hodgson responded to his haul of eight goals in his first 18 United appearances by naming him in his provisional squad for the Euros.
With time running out before the tournament, Rashford was under pressure to make the most of his maiden appearance against Australia on Friday.
Once again he was completely unfazed and it took less than three minutes for Rashford to become the youngest player to score on his England debut with a cool volley that shattered Tommy Lawton's 77-year old record.
United this week handed Rashford an improved £25,000 ($50,000) per week contract tying him to the club until 2020 and that was followed on Tuesday by his inclusion in England's final 23-man squad for the Euros - just 96 days after he stepped out of the shadows as Martial's replacement.