BURTON-ON-TRENT, United Kingdom: Manchester United’s teenage forward Marcus Rashford says England’s dismal display at Euro 2016 means he is unable to look back at his first major tournament with any kind of fondness.
Rashford broke into the England squad in time for the tournament after exploding onto the scene with United in the second half of the 2015-16 season.
But having made only two fleeting substitute appearances in France, including a three-minute cameo in England’s humiliating last 16 loss to Iceland, it is not a memory he really treasures.
“I’ll be honest with you, it is difficult to see it as a positive when you’re losing because in those games you don’t have the chance to get it back,” he told reporters on Monday.
“If it’s for your club and it’s a league game, if you lose a game you have another game next week and you can kind of redeem yourself.
“It’s not like that at tournament football and that’s why it was so, so disappointing and hard to take.”
Fifteen months on from the Iceland debacle, England are on the brink of qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
They tackle Slovenia at Wembley on Thursday (Friday in Manila) before visiting Lithuania on Sunday in their final two qualifying games and need only two points to secure a place in Russia.
Rashford credits manager Gareth Southgate with reinvigorating the squad by helping his players to bond off the pitch and setting clearer objectives for their performances on it.
“The players are gelling in a whole different way compared to what we were then,” said the 19-year-old, who was speaking at England’s St George’s Park training base in Burton-on-Trent, central England.
“I think the set-up and the aim and vision of where we want to go is much better now than what it was.
“That was from the manager himself, that was one of the things he wanted to install. As players we’ve bought into it and hopefully we can get the results.”
Rashford watched the 2014 World Cup whilst on holiday with friends —“maybe Dubai”—and says the 2010 tournament in South Africa was the first World Cup he remembers clearly.
He singles out Brazil’s Ronaldo when asked which World Cup greats have inspired him and says the other Ronaldo—Cristiano—has provided a more recent reference point.
“You try to (copy players like Cristiano Ronaldo), especially when you’re young, until you find your own identity,” he said.
“You try to emulate those players a lot and they’re the things that make you into the player you are.
“It’s hard to take a specific aspect, but you can take things like mentality or characteristics.”
Rashford scored a fine free-kick against Celta Vigo during United’s march to Europa League glory last season, but he has not yet attempted to mimic Ronaldo’s distinctive free-kick style in a match.
“It’s actually a different technique,” he explained. “I can do it like he does it, but I haven’t done it yet.”
Rashford has shone for United this season in the left-wing role that Ronaldo often occupied during the early stages of his own United career.
The England youngster, who turns 20 later this month, faces stiff competition from the similarly in-form Anthony Martial and he says the pair are keeping each other on their toes.
“Without it, you don’t improve,” Rashford said.
“Young players need that sort of environment around them. I think we’re both enjoying our football at the moment.
“We’re both having our say in the games and it’s good for us, good for the manager, good for the team.”