Manchester United’s morale-boosting 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur was a much-welcomed result. After two successive weeks where they allowed rivals Manchester City to build a comfortable cushion, Anthony Martial’s strike nine minutes from time gave United a crucial three points. The Frenchman ended up winning the club’s in-house man-of-the-match. However, it was really Marcus Rashford, the man he replaced, who was strutting his stuff and causing havoc amongst the Tottenham back-line. Rashford’s play helped his side pick up all three crucial points.
Marcus Rashford finally comes of age, having already been there for a while
Manager José Mourinho has made full use of his squad depth on the wings. He has given both Rashford and Martial time on the pitch. However, more often than not, it has been the Englishman who has featured more prominently in the starting eleven. He is fully justifying his case. His showing against a strong Tottenham side that was full of confidence following an impressive 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool the previous week proved that he has matured well since his debut for United over 18 months ago. Ahead of his 20th birthday on Halloween, he has proven to be quite a responsible figure in the side.
Rashford has taken on the initiative to step up amidst a red mist of injuries that has haunted several key players for Mourinho’s team. With the treatment table including the likes of Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini, opportunity arose. His show against Benfica earlier in the month in the Champions League was particularly impressive. He ran the Benfica defence ragged all night. Rashford even scored the winner through a free-kick from about 30 yards out; although he had a minor assist from the goalkeeper’s poor positioning. Rashford showed his confidence and willingness to take the risk to go the extra mile. This is a trait largely welcomed by coaches in teenage footballers.
Performing in the Spotlight
He has never been shy of the big stage either. Rashford has proven handy in important continental encounters. For example, take his debut in the Europa League against Midtjylland where his two goals powered United through to the next round of that competition. Or take the following year, where his composure was needed to settle a tough home tie against Anderlecht on his side’s way towards winning the tournament. Rashford turns 20 on Tuesday, with United squaring off against Benfica at home in the Champions League on the same night. If his short, albeit increasingly fascinating, history is to go by, he will certainly be the coolest man on the pitch.
Off the ball, his cool head is also complemented by his willingness to play for the love for his club. He’s shown the maturity needed to lead his side. Rashford has the makings of a future captain, possibly even at international level. Game after game, he’s seen as the most drained player on the pitch. Rashford runs his socks off. When he is brought on as a substitute, he injects the energy that his side desperately needs. Rashford is quickly becoming a game-changer. Given his age, he is certain to only get better. As he grows, so will his level of performance, and that only brings benefits to both his teams.
Room for Improvement
There is still room for improvement though. With Romelu Lukaku firing so far so early in his United career, it looks likely that he has cemented his name on the team-sheet for the sole forward role. With Zlatan Ibrahimović set to return from his knee injury by December at the earliest, the chances of either Rashford or Martial playing in the number nine role must be very low. Rashford can take advantage of this opportunity. He will get plenty of opportunity to develop out on the wing. His trickery, speed, and cunningness in one-on-one situations with defenders has been on display since his debut. However, it is his decision making in the attacking areas that can make him even more dangerous.
Often seen this season, his incorrect decision-making has often cost United good goal-scoring chances. This was seen in a game against Stoke City earlier in the season, where his side dropped their first points of the campaign in a 2-2 draw. Late in the second half Rashford opted to take a long shot instead of creating a goal-scoring opportunity from a cross. This came while the scores were level and was met with grunts from the United faithful in the away end. This is not the first time that it has happened. Rashford has all the tools needed to be a good winger. With a little fine-tuning, he could even be a great one. Even better, he could become an influential commodity to his team.
His record, nonetheless, early in his career is decent. As a player that started his career on a night that he was not likely to, he’s taken the opportunity with both hands. Rashford has possibly even developed more than expected. At 19, Rashford is Manchester United second greatest teenage goal scorer, with 13, ahead of Ryan Giggs (12). He is also just two goals behind Wayne Rooney. While that record isn’t changing for a while, it’s a testament to the effort he has put in to build his career.
Placing third place in the Golden Boy award last week was another major accolade. He is also now set to be a major factor his club’s charge to win their first Premier League honour since 2013. He will also help England as they try to convert their doubters into believers at the World Cup in Russia next summer. This is a feat that he himself may not have imagined two years ago, but he has earned his spot. He has been brilliant at this early stage of his career. It is likely that the best is yet to come for Rashford.
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford (right) celebrates scoring his side’s second goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League, Quarter-Final match at Old Trafford, Manchester. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)