Former Manchester United midfielder and academy coach Nicky Butt has been discussing the reasons behind Marcus Rashford‘s success at Old Trafford.
The 19-year-old, following a groundbreaking opening few months under Louis van Gaal, enjoyed a superb debut season under Jose Mourinho during which he made more appearances than any other first team member.
And he has only continued to improve in recent times, claiming six goals and six assists for club and country since the start of the new campaign.
Speaking to MUTV, Butt, who oversaw Rashford’s progression at youth level, praised the youngster for developing coping mechanisms for the surreal transition from the reserves to first team football.
“If a young boy like Marcus, all of a sudden, jumps onto the scene at 18, he has all these things going on,” he said. “The analysis work you have got to do, watching videos, you have to do your recovery with the sports science team.”
“It’s about how to cope with down time too as there is a lot of travelling and time spent in hotels. It’s about having a coping mechanism.
“It is all new to them and it can be eye-opening. It’s hard enough purely at the first-team football level but they’ve got all this stuff they have got to deal with. They must get their mind in gear as well and it’s hard. They need to do little bits along the way so by the time they do get in the first team, it’s all higher up.
“But the more they get into it, the impact and input of different aspects of the club, makes the transition a lot easier.”
While the sheer chasm between the quality and nature between the reserves and first team football is obvious, we often fail to take note of the internal experience of those making this transition.
How did Rashford seamlessly move away from a culture of football most can identify with to a hyper-structure of worldwide attention, endless videos, sport science and, well, playing against the best in the world?
Perhaps it was a mixture of things: the presence of Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney – his childhood hero – would have helped, of course. Both have been in a similar position, after all. Butt’s role prior to his ascent to stardom, too, was invaluable.
And yet, more than anything, you sense that this all came rather easy for Rashford because he has always looked comfortable on the big stage. And if everything on the pitch goes well, everything else tends to follow.
His evolution since those opening few months has been sensational. He may be turning 20 this month, but he already feels like a senior figure in Mourinho’s first team.