Marcus Rashford says Manchester United were the only club for him
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By Patrick Davison
Last Updated: 16/12/18 3:44pm
Marcus Rashford says the only club he ever wanted to join as a child was Manchester United and that Liverpool was "never an option". Here, he speaks to Sky Sports' Pat Davison ahead of United's Sky Live clash with Liverpool...
Just before five o'clock, on Thursday evening, at what is now known as the Aon training complex, the barrier lifts and a procession of cars come in. All of them contain young kids who dream of playing for Manchester United. All of those kids are so good they've been invited to train here by the club.
In a way, though, it's hard not to feel sorry for them. They've made it to Manchester United but, really, what chance that they'll actually make it at Manchester United? Being one of the best kids in the city is not enough anymore, being one of the best in the country might not be enough anymore.
But a few hours earlier I'd just finished an interview with someone who was exactly like those boys. Someone who has shown it can still be done.
After being spotted playing for his Sunday team by United, Marcus Rashford was soon travelling to Carrington in his mum's car. It was the start of the journey that, about a decade later, would culminate in a fairytale first-team debut.
"I was playing for my old Sunday League team, Fletcher Moss, we won a tournament and there were loads of different scouts there," says Rashford, recalling the moment when the team he supported first recognised his talent.
"For a lot of us, United was the one. Everyone grew up a United fan and United and Fletcher Moss always had a good relationship, players in the past had made that switch, so United was natural.
"When I was about five, six years old, we started at The Cliff development centre. When you make the step over to this building, you're nine, 10 years old and it's different from what you're used to - just look at the size of it."
We are talking by the side of a huge field of pitches at United's training ground. In the corner farthest from us is the pitch Rashford first played on at Carrington as a nine-year-old. After doing well, the following season he progressed to play on the pitch next to it, then the one next to that and so on. The idea is that each year the successful kids move a pitch closer to the first team.
"You don't go to 11-a-side until you're 12 years old. Before then you're playing on tight pitches, which is good because it develops your skills," he says, after laughing at the memory of one of his first games here (a 15-6 win over Bradford).
"So from that corner to that corner, you're learning different ways to play the game.
"It's really good; you can see the U16s and the U18s train - you see the pathway."
As we head from the pitches into the academy building, Rashford recalls being starstruck by seeing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney in the gym. He remembers the nerves of happening to arrive in the canteen at the same time as Sir Alex Ferguson.
Then we make our way to a place that really makes him smile - the academy boot room.
"It was my favourite room because you were getting free stuff!
"You had to line up outside but the problem when you were 14, 15 was that you were growing. Halfway through the season you'd have to go and see Graham (Graham Buckingham, the academy kit man) and ask him for more."
The 'free stuff' was four pairs of boots (two moulded, two studs), some AstroTurf trainers, the kit itself and a coat.
Kids queuing to collect their kit from Graham would wait in the corridor we are in now. The walls are adorned with inspiration - Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best, Mark Hughes and the entire Class of '92,
"Wow - it's not normal to have that many players from the same age group come through and in the past couple of years we've seen how difficult it is.
"Knowing they've done the pathway, they were someone from the academy to look up. I don't think that will change. They will always remain important figures."
Other clubs were part of Rashford's life but only as rivals. Everton had a really good group of players around his age and so those games became very competitive. And, of course, the importance of beating City and, with this weekend in mind, Liverpool, was already understood.
"You never have to be told it - you just feel it. Each club holds different values and it's just a clash of everything - football, fans... it's more than just a normal game."
There's a rumour that as a kid, he might have chosen Liverpool over United.
Is it possible that he could have been going into this Sunday's game on the other side of the argument?
"No. Liverpool was never an option. Liverpool, City, Everton - there was no other club I really would have enjoyed going to other than United. It just felt natural thing to do."
Then we arrive at another picture. One of a new star, added to the corridor wall not so long ago.
"It gives me a proud feeling that they put me in that kind of light," he says, looking up at a huge picture of himself celebrating.
"This building is about letting the kids know it's possible, that they can do it. It should give them that feeling every single day, so it's more for them than for me.
"One day I want to be replaced on this wall and someone else can go there because I think that's right. But it's good to be there for now and it's good to give the kids that feeling."
A few hours later, just as I'm jumping in a taxi, those kids get out of their parents' cars and walk past the picture of Marcus Rashford.