Euro 2016: Could England Place Stall Marcus Rashford's Development?

Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, March 27. Rashford is set to make his England debut against Australia on Friday (May 27). Nigel Roddis/Getty

Just five months ago, Marcus Rashford came off the bench to score his first goal for Manchester United's U21s in front of a few hundred people. On Friday (May 27), the 18-year-old will make his England debut as he battles for a place in Roy Hodgson's 23-man Euro 2016 squad.

It's been a rapid rise for Rashford. An injury crisis saw the youngster thrown into the first-team by then-manager Louis van Gaal. He scored twice against Midtjylland in the Europa League on his debut, and again three days later against Arsenal. An instant hit with the Old Trafford faithful.

Excitement and expectation is high. Rashford is fearless, the 75,000 fans in the Theatre of Dreams failed to faze him as he went on to score the winner in the Manchester derby. But regardless of how he fares against Australia on Friday, Hodgson should be wary about rushing Rashford.

A decade ago, in a similar setting, then-England manager Sven Goran Eriksson opted to give a 17-year-old Theo Walcott a place in his squad for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Walcott had not featured for the Arsenal first-team and has since said it was "too early in my career."

"I was thrown into the limelight straight away having not even played a Premier League game, and suddenly you are surrounded by these top-quality players and you are thinking, 'Do I deserve to be here?' he told the Evening Standard in October.

"I just had to deal with it. I've had a lot of experience since then and earned quite a few caps. Being around top players helps you learn but it was too early in my career."

Now 27 years old, Walcott is at the age when most players hit their peak. But having scored just 12 goals last season, and settling for a place on the substitutes' bench, many believe the electrifyingly pacey winger has failed to fulfill his potential.

Admittedly, Rashford has already starred on the world's stage and the expectation is that he will be part of the trio dropped from the provisional 26-man squad going to France, anyway.

But what happens if the youngster produces a man-of-the-match performance? What happens if the brittle Daniel Sturridge picks up an injury? The cry will be for Rashford to go.

"He's one of the contenders, of course," Hodgson said. "There's no reason, if he does exceptionally well, why he can't knock someone off their perch."

The concern is that it could knock his confidence and, a decade later, explaining how it was "too early."

Euro 2016: Could England Place Stall Marcus Rashford's Development? | Sports