Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has encouraged Marcus Rashford to follow the example of Cristiano Ronaldo in order to make the most of his Manchester United career.
February 25 marks five years since the forward’s memorable debut for the Red Devils, when he scored twice in a 5-1 Europa League defeat of Midtjylland at Old Trafford.
Having been drafted hastily into Louis van Gaal’s first-team squad due to injuries and then thrust into the starting line-up when Anthony Martial was hurt in the warm-up, Rashford, then 18, struck twice in 12 minutes to help his side progress.
Rashford has since developed into a key part of United and England’s plans, with 85 goals and 38 assists in 253 games in all competitions at club level, plus 11 goals in 40 appearances for the national team.
His strike in the 3-1 win over Newcastle United last Sunday drew him level with David Beckham for United goals, just 33 behind Ronaldo.
Manager Solskjaer hopes Rashford takes inspiration from the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who leads the goalscoring charts in Serie A this season after turning 36 three weeks ago.
Speaking ahead of Thursday’s Europa League last-32 second leg against Real Sociedad, Solskjaer said: “He’s had an incredible impact on and off the pitch. He’s matured, grown into a real proper young man.
“He knows what it takes to be a Manchester United player on and off the pitch, he’s taken responsibility on it and off it. I do remember [his debut]: a young little lad coming on, two nice goals, celebration with his team-mates in the stand and I think he’s living proof of what we want to do at the club.
“When you sign for Man United, whether you’re five, six, 10, 14, you have a chance to make dreams come true and long may it continue, he’s got 10-15 years left in him.
“You have to be meticulous to last for a long career. We’ve had the best possible example of that in world football with Cristiano. The way he has looked after himself, the way he came into the club and we all took notice the way he developed throughout his career and the way he looked after himself is major.
“I’m sure Marcus as well is looking after himself. That’s the only way to be at the top: you can’t get distracted and if you play until you’re 35 you can do whatever you want after that.”
Rashford scored in United’s commanding first-leg victory in Turin, a result that puts them in a strong position to progress to the last 16.
With Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek sidelined and a Premier League game at Chelsea to come on Sunday, Solskjaer could well hand opportunities to youngsters such as Shola Shoretire and Amad Diallo, although Hannibal Mejbri will miss out through injury.
“Amad and Shola will be involved, they’re in the squad and I’m not going to tell you if they’re starting or not,” he said.
“I believe in the youth, I believe if young players, if they get a chance, they can really develop, improve, impress, even surprise you and that’s just part of this club and it’s part of me.
“I’ve always loved working with young players and hungry players with a good attitude. If you’ve got a good attitude, you’ve got a good chance; if you don’t, then there’s less of a chance.”