England Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate believes fearless Marcus Rashford has the right mentality to potentially emulate some of the country’s biggest international stars.
Southgate is set to hand the Manchester United striker an Under-21 debut against Norway in Colchester on Tuesday after Rashford dropped down from the senior squad following his inclusion at Euro 2016.
Rashford scored eight goals for United last season and netted on his England debut against Australia in May before making two substitute appearances during the ill-fated campaign in France.
Ex-Aston Villa defender Southgate played when Michael Owen, current senior skipper Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard made their debuts and feels Rashford is cut from the same cloth.
“It is an interesting point,” he said, ahead of the Under-21s’ Euro 2017 qualifier. “One of the elements you are very aware of in all of those players is that they’re not fazed by anything that is thrown at them. That would seem to be what has happened so far with Marcus and I’m sure that could influence the path.
“But I think it is really early to say where he is going to be and what he is going to be.
“From my point of view it has been about how we were able to make this week as strong a learning experience for him as possible and give him the best opportunity to perform while at the same time wanting that for all of the players.
“If you look at the top players, in the end it’s the mental side that differentiates.”
Southgate was never offered England’s top job
Southgate takes charge against Norway for the first time since initially being favourite to replace Roy Hodgson as senior boss in the summer.
Hodgson quit following the shock Euro 2016 2-1 defeat to Iceland and Sam Allardyce was appointed in July. Allardyce won his first game 1-0 as England beat Slovakia in their opening World Cup qualifier on Sunday.
Former Middlesbrough boss Southgate was never offered the top job and, speaking for the first time about the speculation, said he was not ready to take it anyway and hinted at a desire to return to club management in the future.
“I was very clear in my mind that there are other things I want to do first,” he said, with his Young Lions top of Group 9 with three games left.
“It is one of the ultimate jobs and you want every skill set possible when you go into it. Sam has years and years of experience. I am fiercely ambitious, there is no question about that, so I wouldn’t want it to be seen that I’m not. I know how far I’ve come since I left Middlesbrough.
“I think with England there are one or two other things that I would want experience of before I took that role to be going into it in a position of real strength.”