SI Staff
Thursday February 25th, 2016

When 20-year-old Anthony Martial was forced to withdraw from Manchester United's vital Europa League match vs. FC Midtjylland, Louis van Gaal turned to someone even younger.

Marcus Rashford, 18, was handed the start at Old Trafford, making his debut for the Red Devils as they attempted to stave off European elimination in the round of 32, and he came through with a pair of second-half goals in the come-from-behind victory. After falling down 3-1 on aggregate, United scored four unanswered to advance 5-3.

Then, to follow that up, Rashford scored two goals in Manchester United's 3-2 win over Arsenal, dealing the Gunners a massive blow in their quest for an EPL title and keeping Man United in the hunt (albeit barely) for a Champions League spot. 

So who is Marcus Rashford?

The hometown striker joined Manchester United's academy two years ago, quickly rising through the ranks and impressing along the way. From his player page on Manchester United's official website:

An exciting prospect with fine balance and a powerful shot, the teenager has made impressive progress through the ranks and has been involved in the first-team squad in 2015. ... Perhaps more comfortable operating in the hole between midfield and attack, the Manchester-born starlet managed to hold down a pretty regular place towards the end of that campaign. Four goals in 10 starts, including some real crackers, impressed all Academy observers and there was a feeling he was ahead of schedule. ... Learning all the time in a centre-forward role, he regularly showed glimpses of his star quality and finished as top scorer with 13 goals from 25 (2) appearances - a healthy return. His magnificent free-kick in the FA Youth Cup defeat at Tottenham illustrated his prowess from set pieces.

"One we saw starting to emerge as he grew into his body more was Marcus Rashford," stated [now former academy coach] Paul McGuinness. "He put some exciting parts of games together and we saw some exciting things. He's emerging and starting to do more."

Following a transfer window that saw Manchester United splash millions to try and improve its roster, all it took was a pair of injuries–to Martial and Wayne Rooney–to thrust Rashford into the spotlight, and he took full advantage. Despite Midtjylland striking first at Old Trafford in the second leg to take a 3-1 aggregate lead and level the playing field on away goals, Rashford came through. His debut goal brought United back from the dead, knotting up the series after Memphis Depay's cross forced an own goal:

His second gave United the lead, capping an unlikely comeback and providing some light in an otherwise dismal season.

Then on Sunday, Rashford added to his legend. His first against Arsenal came after confidently lashing home an errant deflection in the box: 

Then added his second with a nice header: 

Not much has gone right for Van Gaal this season, but his last-minute, injury-induced tweak to the starting XI certainly paid off.

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