More than a lot has been made of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho’s battle for supremacy in Manchester. While those two old foes lock horns again, another battle has gone under the radar. Both managers have available to them one of the two most talked about and best young strikers in the Premier League right now. Kelechi Iheanacho and Marcus Rashford are enjoying starts to their footballing careers that I’m sure even they can barely believe. The mouth-watering riches that are available to both clubs to buy world class players pays testament to how highly both players are rated. Here we will attempt to make the tricky decision of which one is the best young forward in the Premier League.
We’ll start with Kelechi Iheanacho since he made his breakthrough first. After a hugely impressive U-17 World Cup in 2013, which Nigeria won and Iheanacho was voted the tournament’s best player, Iheanacho picked up the award for Africa’s Most Promising Talent of the Year. A few months later, Manchester City recognised his potential and signed him to a pre-contract deal that would begin on his 18th birthday in October 2014.
He truly came to the attention of all Manchester City fans on 12th September 2015. After making his debut the previous month, Iheanacho replaced Wilfried Bony in the final minute of a match away at Crystal Palace which was locked at 0-0. Yet, he still had the time to cooly slot home the winner and announce his arrival in the Premier League. After impressing in that game, Iheanacho continued to be given opportunities by then manager Manuel Pellegrini and in January 2016 he scored his first career hat-trick against Aston Villa in the FA Cup 4th Round. He ended the season with 14 goals and as City’s 3rd highest goal scorer behind Sergio Agüero and Kevin De Bruyne.
He showed his determination in the summer by turning down the chance to represent Nigeria at the Olympics in order to prove himself to new manager Pep Guardiola. He has started the season well after stepping into the shoes of Sergio Agüero who has been serving a 3-match ban for an elbow on Winston Ried. In just 160 minutes of Premier League action, he has scored twice and laid on 3 assists. He also scored his first ever Champions League goal in the match against Borussia Monchengladbach.
Over the summer he replaced Wilfried Bony as the club’s second striker but what puts Iheanacho’s achievements into perspective best is his stats, which are quite frankly incredible. He has 12 goals in just 13 starts, he has scored 10 Premier League goals from only 14 shots at a conversion rate of around 71% and he has become only the 16th teenager to score 10 goals in the Premier League. One thing is for sure, even though Sergio Aguero is back, opportunities won’t be hard to come by for this youngster.
Iheanacho is a typical striker, he knows where the goal is and he has a clear poacher’s instinct. His goals against Manchester United and Bournemouth demonstrated his ability to be in the right place at the right time. He managed to peel off his marker and be in the perfect place to tap the ball in after Kevin De Bruyne’s shot rebounded off the post in the Manchester Derby. His incredible shot accuracy for the club shows that he often gets into positions to shoot where it’s easy to score. He also showed great improvisation against the Cherries as he had to change his standing foot before shooting due to the pace on the ball across from Sterling. The whole reason that he was able to score against Bournemoiuth also owed to his pace he used to get keep up with the breakaway. His pace is just one of his attributes that has Premier League defenders worried.
Iheanacho has enjoyed a successful career for Nigeria at youth levels. His U-17 World Cup winners medal being his crowning achievement but in Novemeber 2015 his impressive form earned him his first senior call-up aged just 18. He came on as a substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Swaziland that finished 0-0. In March 2016, he made his first start against Egypt in African Cup of Nations qualifier, the match again finished as a draw. However, Iheanacho then went onto score in his next three appeareacnes for his country. He scored one goal a piece in matches against Mail, Luxembourg and Tanzania. Clealy his international career has taken off as quickly as his club career.
Marcus Rashford may well have made his debut later than Iheanacho but his blockbuster performances have earned him no less attention. He joined the club in 2005 as an seven year old but up until February this year he was a complete unknown, when all of a sudden Manchester United’s suffered a spate of injuries and Louis van Gaal was forced to throw the 18-year-old into action. He was a late replacement in United’s starting line-up against Midtjylland in the Europa League Round of 32 in February. Questions were asked but by the end of the game questions were turned into accolades. Rashford scored twice on his debut to help his team to a 5-1 win and spare them an embarressing exit. In the process he became the club’s youngest ever European goalscorer overtaking George Best.
His performance earned him his first Premier League start just three days later at home to Arsenal. Incredibly, he repeated the feat scoring twice in three first half minutes aswell as an assist to stun the Gunners and hand his side another victory. With four goals in his first two games, Rashford went from nobody to the kid the whole world was talking about. Rashford became hard to ignore even when players returned from injury and on March 20th his incredible rise continued when he scored the only goal for United as they triumphed 1-0 in the derby at the Etihad. That goal he cooly slotted underneath the on-rushing Joe Hart made him the youngest scorer in the Manchester derby in the Premier League era. Rashford’s record breaking season ended with him scoring 8 goals in 18 games in all competitions, 5 of which coming in the Premier League, earning him a new long term contract at the club.
In the summer Jose Mourinho took the reins at the club and Rashford’s future was thrown into doubt. Mourinho is not known for giving young talent a chance and there were fears that Rashford’s progress would be curtailed. It certainly looked that way as Rashford’s chances were limited in the opening games of the season but eventaully Rashford’s undoubted talent won through. He scored a last minute winner against Hull off the bench and he gave a lack-luster side a boost by coming off the bench in the Manchester Derby. He finally earned his first start of the season on sunday against Watford and repaid the manager’s faith by scoring the equaliser. Unfortunately, he was let down by the rest of the side as Mourinho’s men went down 3-1 at Vicarige Road. With Rashford working his way into the Mourinho’s plans who knows what heights the teenage sensations career could reach next.
Rashford is blessed with seering pace which often sees Mourinho operate with him outwide and Zlatan Ibrahimović in the central striking role. However, this is not a problem for him as he has all of the attributes to play anywhere across the frontline. He is a willing runner and likes to take players on to push his team up the pitch. In his limited playing time at the Euros he looked like the only member of the squad who attacked with any urgency. Along with being great with the ball at his feet, he is cool as ice infront of goal. He possesses such composure for a player so young, he didn’t panic against Hull when United were staring down the barrell of an embarressing 0-0 draw, instead he held his nerve and when the time came he popped up in the right place at the right time and he took his chance. His cooly taken finish against Manchester City was not the sign of a player that panics in the big moments, which is a great sign for him and United.
Like Iheanacho, Rashford’s explosion into the professional ranks has earned him recognition from his country. Rashford was called upto the England squad for the pre-Euro 2106 friendlies. He made his senior debut on the 27th of May and Rashford continued his kanck of scoring on debut. It took him only 138 seconds to get on the scoresheet against Australia thus breaking yet another record, the youngest ever player to score on his England debut. This incredible from earned him a place in England’s Euro 2016 sqaud just four months after his senior debut for Manchester United. While England flopped, Rashford was restricted to just 35 minutes in the whole tournament, much to the furstration of the nation. He looked birght in both matches he played against Wales and Iceland but in the latter he was restricted to only five minutes and in the end he didn’t get the chance to turn the game back in England’s favour. He was one of the only members of the squad that left France with their reputation enhanced. With his reputaution at an all-time high, Sam Allardyce still chose to drop him back to the U-21’s, however, Rashford showed he is far to good for that level by scroing a hat-trick on his debut agianst Norway. Don’t expect to see Rashford in the U-21’s for long.
|Attribute /5||Marcus Rashford||Kelechi Iheanacho|
There you have it, I have Marcus Rashford just ahead. While I rate both players, I beleive that Rashford has abit more to his game to Iheanacho, Iheanacho is more of a poacher while Rashford for me does more to start attacks aswell as scoring. Agree with my opinion?
I’m sure you don’t so please feel free to vote below, leave a comment or let us know your opinion on Twitter via @OfficialTFF.