England's Great Revivalist: Why Marcus Rashford Deserves Your Attention

For all the talk of Grealish and Foden, Rashford is England's x-factor at this World Cup
14:00, 01 Dec 2022

Every time the England teamsheet is published, the public are quick to tell you exactly what they think. “Where is Grealish?”, “Finally Foden starts!”, “Maguire again!”. One player that seems to court far less extreme opinion is Marcus Rashford. 

Stray Manchester United fans in social media comment sections might indulge. They’ll praise his inclusion or bemoan his absence. But even sections of that fanbase are yet to get with the programme. Even before this most misplaced of World Cups started, you rarely got a clamour for Rashford to play. A large portion of United’s support would rather see Anthony Martial in his place. These fans, and the Three Lions supporters ignoring Rashford’s influence, are behind the times.


Rashford has eight goals in 19 appearances for his club this season, a fine tally for an outside left. Crucially, the 25-year-old has bagged three goals at this World Cup. As many as Kylian Mbappe. As many as Cody Gakpo. But scour the internet for evidence of Rashford receiving the praise heaped on those two and you’ll be left wanting. Phil Foden is eulogised endlessly, his reputation growing further when he doesn’t play than when he does. Jack Grealish is currently enduring his second tournament as the rarely-glimpsed theoretical solution to all of England’s problems. But Rashford, a man who is taking the tournament by storm, is playing the third wheel.

No one can accuse his rise of lacking narrative heft. This is a player who was vilified after missing a penalty in the Euro 2020 final. Until this World Cup, he had not been picked to play a minute of international football since. The intervening period saw his club form plummet, all while braindead racists crowed about how the socially-conscious star should “stick to football”. This young man, who had helped feed a nation while the pandemic raged, was the latest celebrity whose downfall was relished by the morons of society.


But Rashford dusted himself off and persevered. He showed the same strength that helped him stare down a failing government and recovered his form. Rashford’s superb displays for United this term saw him make a late assault on Gareth Southgate’s plans. He has rewarded that faith in spades. A goal from the bench in England’s opening 6-2 thumping off Iran was followed by a brace against Wales. Rashford’s first in that final group game, a rasping free kick, will live long in the memory.

Yet, much of the post-match coverage preferred to commemorate Foden’s contribution. The Manchester City man took his goal well, reacting quickly to turn home a Harry Kane cross. But it was interesting that he snatched so many headlines when it was ultimately Rashford’s contributions that did the most to win the tie. 

Was this the vindication of fans and pundits who have called for Foden’s inclusion all tournament long? Was it the way England has romanticised improvisational midfielders like Foden since the heyday of Paul Gascoigne? Or perhaps a reluctance to say the words “mea culpa” from so many that have dragged Rashford’s name through the mud? England’s victory over Wales was a triumph for Rashford, whether anyone cares to admit it or not.

As England play Senegal on Sunday, Gareth Southgate has some decisions to make. Foden, Rashford and Grealish will all be discussed. But old faithfuls like Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka and Mason Mount will also be in Southgate’s thoughts. Such is the squad depth that England boast, there will be complaints no matter the eleven that is ultimately picked to face Senegal. But if the tournament’s joint-top scorer is on the bench at kick-off, perhaps kick up a little bit of a fuss while you’re slagging off the manager for not starting Grealish, yeah?

rashford is 10/1 to win the golden boot*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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