Marcus Rashford came off the bench with 13 minutes left to play in Manchester United’s clash with Basel on Tuesday. “Mourinho's leaving it late if Rashford's going to score on his Champions League debut,” chuckled supporters in the crowd. Less than 10 minutes later, the teenage forward made it 3-0.
Fans had joked before the game that Rashford was destined to find the net at Old Trafford because that's what Rashford does: he scores on his debut.
In February 2016, as a relatively unknown figure at the club, Rashford was selected to play against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League after Anthony Martial sustained an injury in the warm-up.
The 18-year-old had a quiet first half and United went in 1-1 at the break. Having lost away from home in the first leg, the pressure was on Rashford to get a goal. Back then, supporters didn’t know as much about him as they do now, otherwise they wouldn’t have worried. Fifteen minutes after the restart Rashford made it 2-1, then secured the victory with his second 10 minutes later.
It was only the Europa League, though. It was only FC Midtjylland. There was nothing to get too excited about just yet.
Three days later, United faced Arsenal at Old Trafford. With Martial and Wayne Rooney still unavailable, Rashford led the line again. Just 32 minutes into his Premier League debut, the striker had added another two goals to his account. The following day, he was back at school in Sale.
Rashford scored the winner at the Etihad Stadium the following month, before lining up against West Ham in an FA Cup quarter-final. Making his debut in a competition United would go on to win, Rashford struck a fantastic goal to put his side 1-0 up.
With just three months of first-team football under his belt, Roy Hodgson called Rashford up to the England squad to see if he was worth taking to that summer’s European Championship in France. Three minutes into his first appearance for the national team - a friendly against Australia in the lead-up to the tournament -Rashford netted his first goal for his country.
The following season, Rashford got his first taste of the EFL Cup in a game against Northampton. United would go on to win this competition and, predictably, Rashford scored in his team’s 3-1 victory.
Rashford is still a teenager, yet he's scored on his debut in the Premier League, the Champions League, the FA Cup, the EFL Cup and the Europa League. That’s a remarkable record and one which says a lot about his mentality.
While his finishing is far from perfect, his fearlessness makes him a joy to watch. Scoring on your debut isn’t unheard of when it comes to strikers who have made their way into the first team from the academy - think Federico Macheda and James Wilson - but it's another thing entirely to continue playing well. That's what sets Rashford apart from the many other young strikers who have failed to nail down a first-team place.
Rashford is never overawed by the occasion. He plays with the enthusiasm of a young lad, but also the confidence of somebody who's been scoring goals at Old Trafford for years. He’s yet to even play 50 games in the Premier League, yet he approaches every match with a belief that he will score.
There isn’t a more satisfying feeling in football than seeing one of your own make it into the first team. When you consider that Rashford has been at United since he was seven - he's a lifelong fan of the club - it makes his achievements all the more heart-warming.
United supporters have a feeling of huge pride when it comes to Rashford, a sense that comes from the ownership of him being one of them. Watching him wheel away after scoring against Basel and kissing the United crest for the first time in the Champions League gave supporters great pleasure.
“Like Manchester, Rashford is red," chant the fans. There's not another player in the team who supporters enjoy seeing score more.
“I have always been a Manchester United fan, so to be playing in the first team really is a dream come true,” Rashford said last year. “To be able to play football at the biggest club in the world means everything to me and my family.”
With his winning mentality, fearlessness, love for the club and desire to improve, we're likely to see Rashford scoring goals for United for many years to come.