Why Rashford is a rare breed in the Premier League
Marcus Rashford acknowledges he is one of a rare breed in the Premier League - a player aged under 21 years of age who can be considered anything like a regular with his team.
We looked at the data after 24 matches in the top flight this term and considered players who are still shy of their 21st birthday - Marcus does not celebrate that landmark event until the final day of October.
By our reckoning, only 10 players played in at least two-thirds of the matches over this period with Rashford's ever-present status only matched by Watford's Brazilian prospect Richarlison, who has adapted well to life in England. Some of these would probably not consider themselves regulars yet but it might be telling that another of them is also a United player - Crystal Palace loanee Tim Fosu-Mensah.
“It is such a difficult thing to do and those stats obviously show it,” he told United Review in an exclusive interview for Saturday's official match programme, which is free for all attendees at the game.
“The fact there are only 10 or so playing shows how difficult it is to do it. I’d also say it’s harder at the top clubs who can breed those types of players but they have fewer opportunities. You have to just try to get in the team and then stay in the side like everyone else.”
“I think Marcus's story is quite interesting because he started playing with Mr [Louis] van Gaal when the team was really in trouble to have options,”said the boss this week.
“And then the monster that kills the little kids arrives but he plays every game. Since then, he plays every game - starting or coming from the bench as a striker, as a left-winger, as a right-winger. Then he goes to the national team. The kid is having a hell of an experience at every level, so amazing future awaiting for him and being surrounded by these players [like Alexis] can only help him. But the story of Marcus not getting any minutes and matches is really old because he's a very important player for us.”
Obviously, the stats prove Rashford is, indeed, getting enough game time and that is unlikely to change too radically even after the arrival of Alexis Sanchez, despite some suggestions to the contrary. Of course, he did miss out on any minutes at Tottenham in midweek but that was only due to Marouane Fellaini's untimely injury. The forward was stripped and ready to enter the fray as a substitute, only for the Belgian's knee problem to force a change of plan, with Ander Herrera instead becoming the third man used by the boss during the 2-0 defeat.
So Rashford is still very much ahead of schedule and looks certain to play a key role in the remainder of the season as the Reds chase silverware at home and abroad.
Players aged under 21 regularly playing in Premier League (first 24 games):
24 matches: Marcus Rashford (United), Richarlison (Watford)
23 matches: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton)
20 matches: Tammy Abraham (Swansea, on loan from Chelsea), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
19 matches: Tom Davies, (Everton), Joe Gomez (Liverpool)
16 matches: Lewis Cook (Bournemouth), Tim Fosu-Mensah (Crystal Palace, on loan from United), Jonjoe Kenny (Everton)