Emile Heskey hopes Marcus Rashford is given a chance to impress Jose Mourinho at Manchester United after the striker’s breakthrough season.
Rashford, who scored just three minutes into his England debut during a 2-1 win over Australia last week, hit eight goals in 18 matches for United, including a brace on his debut against FC Midtjylland.
Following speculation that the 18-year-old could now be loaned out under new manager Mourinho, Heskey believes it should take a “massive” signing to displace Rashford from United’s starting line-up.
“I like Rashford because he shows no fear. He plays his game, takes people on, barges them out of the way and scores goals,” Heskey told The Set Pieces, speaking at the Ladbrokes #ForTheFans EURO 2016 preview event.
“He shows everything he can of himself on the pitch. He’s very mature for his age and you need that at an international tournament.
“He deserves a chance at Manchester United next year. From what he showed last season, I think he could start. Unless they sign a massive, massive name and spend a hell of a lot of money.”
With Rashford included in Roy Hodgson’s squad for Euro 2016, Heskey, who scored seven goals in 62 international caps, has backed England’s strikers to lead the team deep into the knock-out stages.
The 38-year-old former Liverpool and Leicester forward believes the current attacking options are as good as any England have possessed in recent years, urging Hodgson to partner Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy in attack for the Three Lions’ opening game against Russia on June 11th.
“I think Kane’s a wonderful player. He definitely has to start. If it’s two up front then it has to be him and Vardy,” said Heskey, adding that he can picture his own style complementing Vardy’s had the two played for England at the same time.
Given his injury troubles over the past two seasons, there had been doubts about whether Daniel Sturridge would retain his place in the final 23-man squad, but Heskey says the Liverpool man deserves to be included.
“Sturridge is a great player, he’s just been so unlucky with injuries,” he said.
“He deserves his place and gives us something different to the other players. He’s had to mentally deal with a lot – with his injuries, and people doubting whether he could come back from that – and he’s showed them time and time again.”
A veteran of two World Cups – playing under Sven-Göran Eriksson in 2002 and Fabio Capello in 2010 – and one European Championship in 2004, Heskey also has a word of advice for Hodgson ahead of England’s departure for France.
“It’s important to keep the players as relaxed and focused as possible. But you don’t want the players to be thinking too much about the games,” he said.
“That’s one of the things about tournament football, you want to be relaxed and approach a match as though it’s just another game. It’s not just another game, of course, but you want to be thinking that way.
“You don’t want to think about the pressure. You want to enjoy the games and entertain – that’s what the fans want. You want to win, but you want to play good football as well.
“Under Sven, sometimes we’d all go out together to TGI Fridays or somewhere. Silly stuff, but it gets you out of the hotel and talking to each other.
“It’s such a long time you’re away, about six weeks, and I’m not the sort of guy to get homesick or anything. But you do feel like it’s a long time. It’s easier now because you can just get on your phone and FaceTime, but we weren’t lucky enough to have that.”
As for his own future, Heskey – who hopes his iconic DJ celebration comes out if England face Germany – is relaxed about finding a new club after leaving Bolton at the end of the season.
“I’ll have a holiday with the family and see what happens,” he said. “I’m not in any rush to get back into football but we’ll see what comes up. I’ve just started my badges and done my Level 2 and I’ll take it from there, see whether it’s for me or not.”
Emile Heskey was speaking at the Ladbrokes EURO 2016 preview event. To join in the conversation, follow @Ladbrokes or search #ForTheFans on Twitter or Instagram.