LONDON – Three months ago, Marcus Rashford hadn't even played a senior game in professional soccer. Now, the 18-year-old Manchester United forward is going to the European Championship for England.
By including Rashford in his 23-man squad on Tuesday, England coach Roy Hodgson countered critics who accuse him of being a conservative coach. He can't be accused of just going with the safe choices any more.
When England qualified for the European Championship in September, Rashford was still in the United academy facing a long and arduous path to the first team. He was only plucked from the youth ranks in February as a last resort during an injury crisis by now departed manager Louis van Gaal.
Two goals were scored on his debut in a Europa League game against FC Midtjylland. It was no fluke. Three days later came another two in a win over Arsenal.
At that time, Hodgson was downplaying talk of Rashford forcing his way into England contention in time for Euro 2016. It seemed too fanciful.
Soon the case became just too tempting, with Rashford hard to resist as an unpredictable fresh burst of dynamism in the squad.
By the time the season ended, Rashford was an FA Cup winner and had scored eight goals in 17 appearances for United. He also made England's initial 26-man provisional squad.
Rashford is also off the mark in international soccer, taking less than three minutes of his debut last week to find the net. At 18 years and 208 days, Rashford became the youngest player to score in his debut for England when he volleyed in the opener in a 2-1 win over Australia in a friendly.
It was enough to convince Hodgson to take him to France among five forward options alongside captain Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy. Winger Andros Townsend and midfielder Danny Drinkwater were cut, along with the injured Fabian Delph.
England opens its Euro 2016 campaign on June 11 against Russia.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Defenders: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Jamie Vardy (Leicester)