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World Cup 2018: Marcus Rashford is 'free to play' with England, says Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck

Rashford and Welbeck scored England's goals in the 2-0 win over Costa Rica

Mark Critchley
Friday 08 June 2018 18:33 BST
Gareth Southgate delighted with England's preparations ahead of World Cup

Danny Welbeck believes that Marcus Rashford is benefitting from being given the freedom to play after the youngster’s man-of-the-match display for England on Thursday.

Rashford staked his claim for a starting place at the World Cup this summer against Costa Rica at Elland Road, opening the scoring with a spectacular dipping strike in a 2-0 win.

The goal was the highlight off an excellent all-round performance from Rashford, who endured something of a difficult season at club level with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.

Rashford may yet miss out on a place in Gareth Southgate’s team to play Tunisia in Volgograd on 18 June, but his showing will have given the England manager pause for thought.

Welbeck, who rose through the ranks at United just like Rashford, believes his fellow Mancunian has the talent required to impress on the world stage.

“I have enjoyed training with Marcus and from playing against him in the Premier League, I know the qualities he possesses and tonight he was brilliant,” the Arsenal striker said.

“He has been free to play. The manager told him to go out there and be free – express yourself. The structure we have got as a team means we all know what we have got to do, so when you are in a certain position you know you have got lots of choices.

“He is – how old? – 20. He has got a lot of that youthful enthusiasm. I think tonight he was buzzing all around the pitch. But he is so mature around the place as well at times. He knows when to curb his enthusiasm.”

​Rashford will travel to Russia in a similar position to that of Michael Owen in 1998, as a young striker on the fringes of England’s starting line-up.

Owen – then 18-years-old – eventually broke his way into Glenn Hoddle’s side and ended the tournament as one of England’s stand-out performers, memorably scoring a solo goal against Argentina in St Etienne.

When asked whether Rashford might emulate Owen’s success in 1998, the Arsenal striker said: “Marcus has the qualities to have an impact on every single game.

“There are a lot players in there who can make an impact in any given moment. I think a lot of the players are really looking to going and seeing what effect they can have.”

Welbeck is one of Rashford’s rivals for a place up front and did his own cause no harm by scoring England’s second goal in Thursday’s 2-0 win.

“I was pleased to get the goal, but obviously the important thing for me was to get some more minutes ahead of the tournament, so it was good for me.

“There is a lot of talent all over the squad and healthy competition for everybody. It gives the manager a good selection headache and Marcus’s goal was incredible. He has definitely staked a claim tonight.”

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