Marcus Rashford has been included in a 24-man England U21 squad for the upcoming 2017 European Championship qualifier against Norway on 6 September. The Manchester United striker has never played at that level before, having made just one appearance for the U20 side before an impressive run of eight goals in his opening 18 first-team appearances at Old Trafford led to Roy Hodgson handing him a senior international debut against Australia in May.
Rashford netted within three minutes of that friendly at the Stadium of Light to surpass Tommy Lawton's 78-year-old record as the youngest player ever to score on their England debut and he was duly rewarded for his fine form with a place on the plane for Euro 2016. He was eventually used rather sporadically in France, however, providing good energy off the bench during the late 2-1 victory over Wales and replacing Wayne Rooney for the final four minutes of that embarrassing defeat to Iceland.
Despite his memorable performances during Louis van Gaal's final season at the helm, Rashford has remained an unused substitute in both of successor Jose Mourinho's opening Premier League matches in charge and was restricted to a late 20-minute cameo at Wembley earlier this month as United beat champions Leicester City to win the Community Shield.
The arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played a big part in such a relegation, with the confident Swede having scored four goals already in just his first three matches.
New England boss Sam Allardyce warned Rashford last week that a lack of first-team football makes it "harder to select" him in his first squad for the opening 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovakia in Trnava. For now, he appears content for the 18-year-old to further his development with the U21s as they look to remain top of Group 9 ahead of nearest rivals Switzerland, with three games left to play.
"Last season, his pathway was remarkable and we're very conscious of plotting how we develop our young players," said manager Gareth Southgate, who earlier this year led his side to a first victory in the prestigious Toulon Tournament since 1994. "We spoke a lot with Manchester United last season when we put him in the U20s in March, which both they and ourselves felt was the right thing at the time.
"He then continued his progress, which was great, and of course he played a part in Roy's squad at the Euros. But if he's less likely to start with the seniors at this moment in time, and Sam is quite keen that people are playing regularly, we think that it's now a good opportunity in his international development for him to be with the U21s."