Marcus Rashford has been in love with Brazilian football since the age of five and based his game on the fearless forward play of Ronaldo.
The Manchester United striker was barely old enough for school when he had his first matchday experience at Old Trafford – a Champions League quarter-final in April 2003 – but he was already learning.
United beat Real Madrid 4-3 on the night but the iconic Ronaldo‘s thrilling hat-trick was enough to see the Spanish side through on aggregate.
The World Cup winner said last year he sees hints of himself in the 20-year-old Englishman and, speaking ahead of Brazil’s friendly trip to Wembley on Tuesday, Rashford named Ronaldo as his childhood inspiration.
“He was my brother’s favourite player – that’s why I’ve grown up watching so much of him and his games,” he said, with a nod of thanks to sibling Dwaine.
“It’s all those clips on YouTube and my first ever game that I saw live, he was playing in it. I always remember it. It was in 2003 and scored a hat-trick. I was only young, though.
“He was obviously a top player who won a lot of things in his career, so when you know he’s saying good things about you then it really stands out.
“He always played free. No matter where he was playing, he played free and went out there and expressed himself. When you do that, that’s when you play your best football.
“When you’re young you watch clips of the best players in the world and try and emulate them – it just tends to happen naturally.”
Rashford linked up with a second Samba star in pre-season, meeting former Barcelona favourite Ronaldinho while on holiday in the United States.
“I bumped into Ronaldinho in the summer. He was also a top, top player,” Rashford said. “Those sort of players are rare, but Brazil had two of them. He was in a Nike complex where we were doing some training and he had some commercial stuff to do. He’s a really nice guy and obviously had a fantastic career.”