Marcus Rashford feels the confidence is flooding back into his game after a run of nine goals in 10 matches for Manchester United and England, casting aside what the forward admits has been a difficult spell.
It was a fruitful international break for Rashford, who scored a slickly taken goal seven minutes from time in the 4-0 win over Kosovo, having replaced Callum Hudson-Odoi before the hour. He was also on target against Montenegro three days before, putting in a scintillating display, and on this form there is every chance he will join Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling in Gareth Southgate’s front three at Euro 2020.
That would mark a turnaround in fortunes after a patchy year in which the 22-year-old has often struggled. Before England’s match in Bulgaria on 14 October he had scored once in open play this season – with a further two from penalties – and it has been hard to thrive in a below-par Manchester United side for whom he has largely played at centre-forward.
He is now on a roll and believes it is a consequence of playing regularly, which has been the case domestically since Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over at United last December.
“It has been a tough period and now I’m getting consistent games and playing week in, week out,” he said. “As a forward that has huge importance, especially with [getting] chances.
“If you are not in the team and you’re in and out, you don’t quite have that confidence in front of goal. But when you’re having a run in the team it’s important to come up with the goods and once you start doing that it becomes second nature. You take it game by game and keep improving.”
Rashford’s fortunes rarely escape the microscope and he was keen to point out he has seen a lot for such a young player. That can stand him in good stead, he thinks, when England contest what will largely be a home competition next summer.
“I feel like I have experienced a lot in the game,” he said. “Hopefully there are more big occasions to experience as well. While I’m still young, I have experience in big games that people of my age don’t usually experience. I have to use that to my advantage and try to help the team.”
Rashford described England’s attacking potential as “frightening” and a tally of 37 goals from eight qualifiers makes that argument just as eloquently. In the last two games his pace and thrust have given the team a ruthless, relentless edge and it was noticeable in Pristina their tempo stepped up after his introduction.
“I have been in two tournaments now and the squad is so important,” he said. “With the qualities that every individual has in this team it is something we have to use to our advantage. People are going to be playing at different moments but when you are on the pitch you have to do your best, and try to come up with the goods.
“It is good competition; we really do have that kind of environment when we are in the camp together and it is positive.”
That goalscoring run holds considerable personal importance, though, particularly as Rashford feels he is starting to score with more instinctive finishes like the one he bent around Aro Muric on Sunday. A mind-boggling free-kick against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup has been the outstanding moment of late but he ascribed equal significance to the strike against Kosovo.
“For me, when I score those types of goals, or even tap-ins, it holds bigger importance because I know those are the goals I need to get more of,” he said. “The spectacular goals come every once in a while, so if you want to become a great goalscorer you have to score all types. That is the next step I’m focusing on.”
Another England player in vibrant mood is Fikayo Tomori, who made his full debut when he followed Rashford off the bench in Pristina. The 21-year-old Chelsea centre-back’s star his risen sharply, having been thrust into top-flight action by Frank Lampard following a successful Championship loan with Derby, and he admits life has come at him fast.
“It’s pretty mad,” Tomori said. “If you told me 12 months ago that I’d make my England debut I’d probably have looked at you funny because it just seemed so far away. But now that I’m here I’m grateful. It’s been a lot of hard work and determination, a lot of focus.”
Tomori is on a good run of his own, having won nine and drawn one of his last 10 outings with Chelsea and England. That streak has taken his club to third in the league and he believes nothing is off the table during the rest of the season even if talk of a title challenge may be premature.
“With six wins on the bounce and a good position in the table people are going to say that,” he said, “but we’re just focusing on ourselves . At the same time I don’t think we should limit ourselves to anything.”