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Marcus Rashford celebrates putting United ahead in crutial Europa League tie.

Street Reds star Marcus Rashford sends United to the next stage of the Europa League

Manchester-born Marcus Rashford stunned on his Manchester United first-team debut last night, scoring a brace to secure the Reds’ place in the final 16 of the Europa League.

| by Katie Newton

When he’s not training at the top level, the 18-year-old striker can often be found at the Manchester United Foundation Street Reds programme, which he has attended since the age of 12.

Street Reds offers free football sessions and alternative activities to young people aged 8-18, with the opportunity to learn new skills and work towards qualifications in a supportive and positive environment.

Marcus began attending one of the projects in his hometown of Wythenshawe with friends as young schoolboys, and he still attends to watch and catch up with fellow participants, despite becoming a first-team star.

Street Reds operates in association with the national Premier League Kicks initiative and is delivered by dedicated Manchester United Foundation coaches.  Dave Chapman, who ran the Wythenshawe session when Marcus joined seven years ago, recognised early on that the striker had something special.

Dave said, “He was very quiet and slight and unassuming, but you could see from the beginning that there was something a bit special there.  At this point he was already involved with the Manchester United Academy but we weren’t aware; he never mentioned it, he just turned up to play.

“You see players who play for clubs at the weekends and they turn up to evening sessions and just watch because they don’t want to get injured but Marcus was always fully involved.  He wasn’t one for standing on the side and watching; the lure of the game was too much for him.

“In the eyes of his fellow participants he became a mini superstar; they all wanted him on their five-a-side teams and it caused a few arguments when they were all trying to pick him, but it didn’t affect him.  There were a lot of kids who looked up to him at the session, especially at that age, when you’re coming to a football session and there’s someone who stands out and is as good as Marcus, it commands attention and he became a bit of a leader in the group.”

Nick Bradshaw who currently runs one of the Wythenshawe sessions and has coached Marcus over the years added, “I always remember him coming down on his bike – he was just a normal kid – and the fact he still goes to sessions and watches even now, just to be with his mates, keeps him rooted.  He’s very grounded and I think that comes from his family as well; his brother used to help out at one of our partner primary schools too.”

Marcus continued to attend Street Reds despite training with the first-team and Dave believes the social aspect of the programme has complemented his professional development. “It was different at Street Reds; there was no pressure or expectation, he was just playing within himself, he was never a show-off, although he had the skills and little tricks he’d use within games which would make him stand out,” Dave said.  “I think socially and for his personal development it was a great programme for him in terms of meeting new people and integrating within groups.”

Regarding Rashford’s impressive debut against FC Midtjylland at Old Trafford last night, the coaches expressed their pride and delight for the former participant’s success.

“Any of our youngsters who come through the programmes and do well, whether in the sporting industry or through further education, you always have a sense of pride that somewhere along the line you’ve engaged with them, and you hope that in some way you’ve affected the way that they’ve developed,” said Nick.

Dave added, “By no means are we saying that we’ve created this star footballer but I think what we have done through Street Reds is create an environment in which he was able to thrive and grow as a person and the fact that he’s still going now, 7-8 years later, speaks volumes for the standard of the coaches who have worked with him over the years and the environment that’s been created for him.”

Street Reds operates at 11 locations across Greater Manchester and sessions are free for 8-18 year olds, offering football coaching and alternative activities.  Find out more about Street Reds.