Marcus Rashford’s face was plastered all over back pages this morning following his Europa League heroics for Manchester United.
Tossed in for an unexpected debut against Midtjylland, the 18-year-old struck twice to help the Red Devils reverse a 2-1 aggregate score from the first leg and book a spot in the Europa League last 16, where United will face Liverpool.
Rashford was pitched in at the last minute following an injury sustained by Anthony Martial in the warm up for the Midtjylland game and, with the Frenchman expected to miss Arsenal’s Old Trafford visit this weekend, his teenage teammate will probably lead the line again.
Obviously, the Gunners boast defenders of a far higher quality than the Danes he previously faced and, from the north Londoners’ perspective, conquering United seems a far simpler proposition when they’ve got a rookie up front as opposed to one of their regular strikers.
Indeed, grabbing the headlines will undoubtedly be tougher for Rashford if he does take the field this weekend, but an alarming trend lends a stack of support to any case for him to do so once again.
Since Wayne Rooney’s famous goal for Everton against Arsenal in 2002/03, the Manchester United captain’s first in the Premier League, the Gunners have conceded 11 top-tier goals to teenagers.
Rooney got two more of these, one in the same season while still a Toffee, another as a 19-year-old at United, leaving eight pre-20 goals to consider.
Cristiano Ronaldo got two of them, doing so in a 4-2 Red Devils victory in 2004/05 and former teammate Rafael nabbed a consolation goal in 2008/09 loss for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side at the Emirates.
So, of the 11 teen goals against Arsenal, almost 60% were registered by current or former United players.
Of the remaining goals, perennial transfer target of the Old Trafford club Gareth Bale bagged one while playing for Tottenham and Danny Rose, whose surname shares an opening initial with Rashford and the aforementioned Reds, scored for the same side in a different north London derby.
Gerard Deulofeu notched another when playing for Everton, the club for whom Rooney became the first teenager to score against Arsenal across the period in question.
The most recent scorer in the sequence, Raheem Sterling, is the only player who doesn’t share a direct connection with his young peers, but it’s worth noting his brace in Liverpool’s 5-1 win over the Gunners in 2013/14 came in the same city as Rooney’s goal that started the pattern.
Rashford, it seems, is certain to score this weekend, with United 11/5 to make it three wins from three.