Marcus Rashford believes England are well placed for success as Gareth Southgate has brought a “much better” set-up and vision to the national team.
It is hard to believe quite how much the teenage forward has crammed into 19 months as a first-team player, from winning the Europa League, FA Cup and EFL Cup with Manchester United to representing his country.
Rashford went from his United debut to becoming England’s youngest goalscoring debutant within 92 days – and that rise shows no signs of abating.
Still only 19, the forward is the kind of player who brings hope that the Three Lions can belatedly challenge for a trophy after floundering at recent tournaments.
Rashford was fast-tracked by Roy Hodgson into an England squad that were humbled at Euro 2016 and, with the wounds still raw, believes the country are now in a far better place under Southgate.
“We went out before we’d expected to go out and before we obviously wanted to go out, so it was a disappointing end to the season for me,” the forward said.
“I think since then, as a group we’ve got a new manager, new staff. The players are gelling in a whole different way compared to what we were then.
“I think the set-up and the aim and vision of where we want to go is much better now than what it was.
“Not necessarily on the pitch but off the pitch – around the hotel, everyone feels comfortable and relaxed to be themselves.
“That’s something that I would say is different to last time. Everyone is being themselves and we’re starting to understand each other more.
“At internationals, you don’t get much time together to understand each other’s personalities and what they like to do outside.
“The more we understand each other, the better the results will be on the pitch.
“That was from the manager himself, that was one of the things he wanted to install. As players we’ve bought into it, and hopefully we can get the results.”
England are currently on the brink of reaching their fifth successive major tournament, but performing on the major stage is much more of an issue than qualification.
Handling life at a major tournament has been problematic for England, but things are changing under Southgate’s tutelage.
“We’ve got our identity,” Rashford said. “The people around us, when they start to understand what we’re like as a team, as a group.
“Listen it’s difficult – we’re only together 10 days at a time.
“There’s not much time to find that identify but we’re doing our best to do it, and go to Russia with a plan and try to win the tournament.
“We’re realistic with how we’re playing against the teams in the qualifiers and we have to build a play when we get to the tournament.”
Rashford’s first clear World Cup memory was Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ against Germany in 2010 and four years ago he was on holiday with his brothers during the tournament.
A lot has changed since then and the pace of those alterations have only accelerated since his dream debut in February 2016.
“You just get to grips with it,” Rashford said of the changes in his life. “You’ve just got to take it in your stride.”
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