Marcus Rashford’s extraordinary rise shows no sign of abating, with the teenager’s volley on his England debut helping to down Australia and boost his Euro 2016 chances.
There are fairytale ascents and then there is an 18-year-old breaking into the first team at Manchester United, winning the FA Cup and becoming England’s youngest goalscoring debutant in the space of 92 days.
Rashford has flourished since being thrust into the spotlight in late February and opened his England account in style, capitalising on Daniel Sturridge’s absence as Roy Hodgson’s side defeated Asian champions Australia 2-1 in Sunderland.
A calf strain kept the oft-injured Sturridge out at the Stadium of Light and his teenage replacement shone on his international audition, volleying home impressively after just two minutes and 18 seconds. The Liverpool striker’s latest setback and Rashford’s man-of-the-match display gives Hodgson a selection headache ahead of whittling his squad down to 23 on Tuesday, but there is no doubt about Wayne Rooney’s place in France.
Brought off the bench at half-time, England’s all-time top scorer gleefully collected a pass from Raheem Sterling and rifled into the top corner.
More hairy moments at the back shows there still remains fine-tuning, though, epitomised by substitute Eric Dier directing Milos Degenek’s cross past his own goalkeeper following a potential injury to stand-in captain Chris Smalling.
The win was harder than had been expected against the side ranked 50th in the world as Hodgson tried different combinations in England’s second home match away from Wembley since 2007.
John Stones, Jack Wilshere and Sterling were the only survivors from last Sunday’s 2-1 win against Turkey in Manchester, with Rashford thrown in from the outset due to Sturridge’s calf strain.
Just like at United, he capitalised on his fortune in style, taking a mere 138 seconds to net his maiden international goal.
Having played the ball to Sterling and then seen the resulting cross deflect off Bailey Wright, Rashford showed skill and composure to volley the ball into the ground and past Mat Ryan. It was a magical start to the night and when the youngster was withdrawn just after the hour he went off to a standing ovation.