By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
Manchester United have named teenage striker Marcus Rashford in their 18-man matchday squad for Saturday’s Premier League trip to Watford, Football Insider sources understand.
Rashford, 18, has been fast-tracked into the senior set-up due to an injury crisis that has left Louis van Gaal without his three senior forward players. Teenage midfielder Sean Goss has also travelled with the squad as cover.
A United dressing room source has told Football Insider that Rashford is expected to be on the bench at Vicarage Road, with winger Memphis Depay likely to be asked to spearhead the attack.
Van Gaal is desperately short of options following an injury crisis that has left him without Wayne Rooney (ill), Anthony Martial (foot) and Marouane Fellaini (calf), who led the line against Liverpool earlier this season.
Mancunian Rashford is the latest teenage academy product to be promoted to the first-team in recent weeks, after Axel Tuanzebe’s inclusion in the matchday squad at Crystal Palace and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson’s debut against West Brom.
Rashford has scored six goals in 11 Premier League Under-18 games this season and impressed the manager when he watched the youngster play a youth game against Newcastle earlier in the week.
He could become the ninth player from United’s academy to make their debut since Dutchman Van Gaal took over.
Jesse Lingard, Tyler Blackett, Reece James, Saidy Janko, Andreas Pereira, Paddy McNair, Tom Thorpe and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have all been promoted to the first team by Van Gaal, while 17-year-old Tuanzebe was named on the bench.
Rashford was handed the captaincy of the Under-19s by manager Nicky Butt, who has recommended to Van Gaal that the striker is ready if needed.
Speaking at his weekly media briefing on Friday, Van Gaal explained why he was short of forward options.
“Rooney was ill after the international break,” the Dutchman said. “I have only seen him the day after he played and then he was at home. Yesterday (Thursday) he was at home so I don’t think he can play either.
“Fellaini is also injured, which is a surprise. Martial is not a heavy injury, though. He may be able to play next Wednesday [in the Champions League].”