Marcus Rashford’s rise since he scored two goals for Manchester United against FC Midtjylland in February has been nothing short of spectacular.
The 18-year-old was an unknown identity outside of Old Trafford before that memorable Europa League game, but now he’s preparing to represent England at the European Championship.
However, a story has emerged about how Rashford’s meteoric climb was very nearly delayed.
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As an academy member, players are very often sent out on loan in order to experience first-team football. And that’s exactly what would have happened to Rashford if League Two outfit Crewe Alexandria had their way.
The fourth-tier club, who were relegated from League One in April, attempted to sign the striker on loan a week before he broke onto the scene but were turned down because United’s Under-21 team needed him.
As it goes, it would end up being United’s senior team that needed him.
Crewe first-team coach James Collins explains the story.
“I spoke to (United Under-21 coach) Warren Joyce earlier in the season about taking him on loan for us," Collins said, per Sky Sports.
"Warren said we couldn't because they needed him for their Under-21s. A week later he made his debut for the first team and the rest is history."
Ifs and buts
It’s crazy to think that if Joyce hadn’t blocked the move, Rashford would probably still be a relative unknown.
If he had signed a deal with Crewe until the end of the season, Roy Hodgson certainly wouldn’t have considered him for his Euro 2016 squad regardless of how many goals he scored.
And given new manager Jose Mourinho’s history of promoting youth players, it’s unlikely the Portuguese would have even considered the forward if he had spent a few months at Crewe.
But the opportunity was always there for Rashford to become a first-team star under Louis van Gaal. The Dutchman, sacked by United in May, was always favourable to promoting youth players.
There's a lesson in Rashford's story
Collins thinks a lesson can be learned by Van Gaal’s decision to entrust Rashford.
“It just shows there are good players in academies but opportunity is the key,” he added.
"Marcus Rashford could easily still be languishing in United’s Under 18s because the manager hadn't put him in.
"But whatever you say about Van Gaal this season, he threw them in, maybe through injury. He has took his chance, fair play to the kid.
"How many other Marcus Rashfords are there out there in these academies? I think quite a lot."
If Premier League clubs don’t learn by Rashford’s story, they probably never will.