Marcus Rashford has welcomed the extra responsibilty at Manchester United by admitting he has become one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s leaders.
Rashford has packed a lot in since his first-team debut at Old Trafford in 2016, making 170 United appearances and playing in two international tournaments for England.
But the 21-year-old faces his biggest season yet after the £73.75million sale of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan on Thursday confirmed his place as United’s number one striker.
“For me it’s just about becoming the guy that’s responsible and reliable,” Rashford said ahead of United’s Premier League opener against Chelsea on Sunday.
“I feel like that’s the next step for me. Everything goes in order of the way it should be done.
“I remember these similar steps when I first went into the Under-18s and it takes you a season to grow into that standard of football.
“Before you know it, you’re one of the leaders there and you take responsibility on the pitch. Now I’m in that situation for the first team.”
Rashford signed a new four-year contract in July to keep him at United until 2023.
The deal extended an association between player and club which stretches back to when Wythenshawe-born Rashford was seven years of age.
“I think it’s a very exciting moment,” Rashford said in an interview with the United Review match programme for the Chelsea game.
“For me it was just about getting the new contract out of the way and solidifying that I’m here for the club.
“It’s about getting the club back to where it belongs, what everybody knows Manchester United are.
“I give my life for the club and that’s the most important thing. For me, when you’re in a squad with a lot of young players who share the same ambition and have the same drive, I can only see us succeeding.
“It might take us some time, but if we all stick to the game plan, work collectively as a team, and we’ve got a good manager who knows the club and who shares the same ambition, who knows what we can achieve?
“It’s not just me. There’s a group of young players together and we can start to become what we decide to become.
“That’s an important thing to me: that we can start to help the younger ones coming through.
“It’s all part and parcel of growing up in a United shirt. It’s just the next step.”
Rashford has scored 45 goals for United, 13 of them coming last season as Solskjaer succeeded Jose Mourinho in December.
The Norwegian, himself a former United striker, has put his faith in Rashford to help the Red Devils improve on last season’s disappointing sixth-placed Premier League finish.
“It’s about putting those experiences together now,” said Rashford.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 8, 2019
“That’s how you know the way forward. Right now I feel like mentally and physically I’m more prepared to do it than in the past, especially physically.
“I remember at the beginning of last season, my legs were so tight and tired.
“We hadn’t had much rest and it was tough trying to start the season off quickly.
“With the same amount of rest this year we’ve been able to schedule training, it’s been a lot more individualised and I feel a lot better for it.”
The Old Trafford opener will see Mourinho joining the Sky Sports team for the first time, with the Portuguese being a studio pundit for the clash between two of his former clubs.
“The Premier League is a special competition for me, one that takes so much hard work to win and you just can’t take your eyes off the matches every week,” Mourinho told Sky Sports.
“Football is a huge passion, it means so much to the fans, and I look forward to being part of the Premier League with them until I return to my place on the touchline.”