England vs Australia: New favourite Rashford has timed his run to prominence perfectly

Young striker looked completely at home on the international stage and is likely to take place of Daniel Sturridge 

The Manchester United teenager did not looked fazed as he began his international career in some style (Getty)
The Manchester United teenager did not looked fazed as he began his international career in some style (Getty)

IN the North Stand, at the Stadium of Light, they had barely put down the bits of paper that created the cross of St George, when the song started for the local hero from London.

The Jermain Defoe chant has been at the heart of Sunderland’s recovery and after 36 seconds those home supporters wearing red or white this time began the chant in his name.

It ended abruptly because less than two minutes later, Marcus Rashford had scored.

Rashford is 18, 15 years Defoe’s junior.

If the latest injury to Daniel Sturridge caps off a miserable period in the Liverpool forward’s career, making him miss the European Championships, as appears the case, then the door opens.

The young or the old, the past or the future.

For all Defoe’s excellent season, it is not filled with the promise of Ashford, who scored five times from 11 starts for a Manchester United side not particularly overwhelmed with desire to do such a thing.

England celebrate going ahead through Rashford's early strike (Getty)

He ended his debut season with eight goals from 18 appearances. His star is rising.

The move to the MLS with Toronto has haunted Defoe.

It is seen as a lack of desire. It closed his door, as Roy Hodgson admitted last week, and opened it to others. Like Rashford.

Yesterday there was arrogance, creativity and mistakes, everything you hope an 18-year-old forward making their full international debut would encapsulate.

Scoring within 140 seconds of the first whistle of going on your big screen bow can do that, but it was an excellent strike.

That Ashford was at the goal’s creation merely added to the moment. He took the ball in his stride, played it wide to Raheem Sterling, got the return via a ricochet and volleyed in into the near post of Mathew Ryan’s goal before the Australian goalkeeper had made a realistic attempt to save it.

In that moment Rashford became the youngest player ever to score on their England debut.

The camera caught Wayne Rooney smiling in his seat in the dugout. Then he began clapping. His role in the squad is getting ever deeper.

Three months ago you could get a price of 8/1 on Rashford making the Euro squad. Last night he looked like a shoe-in. The odds - evens - reflected that.

Rooney will be there, Harry Kane will be there and so will Jamie Vardy.

The option to move Raheem Sterling alongside Rashford against Australia, to the forward’s left, was a help, but this is a young man making a name without the contribution of others.

Rashford scored with his first touch as a senior Manchester United player, in the Europa League against Midtjylland.

He scored with his first touch in the Premier League as a Manchester United player, against Arsenal.

We should perhaps not have been surprised he did the same against Australia.

Rooney himself was 18 when he burst onto the international stage, as was Michael Owen.

Rooney’s smile on the bench was a contrast to Sturridge. He must know how the story goes from here.

There were powerful runs down the line from Rashford, back heels that didn’t work, flicks that did.

In the ninth minute he was sent through by a fine pass from Sterling, but his first touch was poor and the chance, when clean through, went.

On the half hour mark he took a pass from Ryan Bertrand, and from the byline pulled back a fine, clever pass to Adam Lallana. Lallana’s shot was blocked by Ryan.

Things happened when he was involved.

That was for the opening 45, when he was at the top of England’s shape.

For the second half he was moved wider, to play off Rooney. It did not curtail his sense of freedom, running at the Australia defence, slipping past two tackles before being stopped.

Wayne Rooney scored England's second and linked up well with club colleague Marcus Rashford

Or from recovering in the 62nd minute from a poor first touch to fire a ball across the face of the Australian six-yard area that should probably have been the third of the evening, Rooney having scored England’s second five minutes earlier.

In the 64th minute the call came for England’s number nine to be taken off. He took his time and the ovation from the stadium was pretty much a standing one.

On the bench he took a comment from a smiling Danny Rose and a bottle to drink from.

He looked, as he had done for the rest of the evening, completely unfazed.

Just after half past nine, he was announced man of the match.

It was his night.

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