Soccer-Rashford selection turns spotlight on Rooney

By Reuters/Martyn Herman   May 16, 2016 | 06:33 pm GMT+7
Soccer-Rashford selection turns spotlight on Rooney
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford shoots at goal Reuters / Eddie Keogh

Teenager Marcus Rashford has already taken Wayne Rooney's place in the Manchester United forward line, now he threatens to do the same at international level after Roy Hodgson included him on Monday in his 26-man preliminary squad for Euro 2016.

The 18-year-old's stunning impact at Old Trafford since making his debut in February has earned him the chance to force his way on the plane to France, just as question marks are being raised about where skipper Rooney will fit in.

Both are listed in the five forwards Hodgson has pencilled in for the tournament, although that number is likely to drop to four with Leicester City's title winner Jamie Vardy, Tottenham Hotspur's Golden Boot winner Harry Kane and Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge almost certain to make the cut.

Rashford, however, could be Hodgson's wildcard should any of that trio suffer a setback in the warm-up games against Turkey, Australia and Portugal.

Hodgson tempered talk of Rashford being in the final 23.

"We have had good feedback from Manchester United on the player," he said. "We have a good group of forward players and plenty of players who can be in the front positions.

"If he continues to develop, there is no reason why he cannot become a regular in the England team."

There is no question of Rooney, who burst into the international limelight as an 18-year-old at Euro 2004 when he helped England to the quarter-finals, not going to France.

But with so many striking options, a starting place is no longer guaranteed for England's all-time leading scorer against Russia in Marseille on June 11 -- a dilemma for Hodgson.

With Spurs young guns Dele Alli and Eric Dier pushing for starting roles and Manchester City's Raheem Sterling offering width and pace, even a place in midfield, where he now plays for United, is not certain for Rooney.

The 30-year-old's experience could, however, prove vital.

"Wayne Rooney is the captain and has done a fantastic job. 109 games and 51 goals and there are not many players in Europe who will reach that success," Hodgson said.

"I have to select teams against Turkey, Portugal and Australia. Rooney is an important player but he is not demanding to play in the opening game. I am under no pressure to select him."

Hodgson said Rooney would have no say in the final 23.

"That would not be correct. His responsibility is as a player, then captain. I am not certain I want him involved in who I should pick," Hodgson said.

With a final Premier League game to come and next weekend's FA Cup final, Rashford, who has scored seven goals in 16 United appearances, has the chance to impress Hodgson.

But whether or not he makes the final 23, his inclusion in the 26, together with several other youngsters, augurs well for the future, according to former England forward Gary Lineker.

"Bags of talented youngsters. Great experience for them. Give them their wings, take pressure off, have fun and see where it takes us," he said on Monday.