Sunday 28 February 2016

A fairytale story as a star is born at the Theatre of Dreams

Barely anyone outside Old Trafford had heard of Marcus Rashford less than a week ago but now the teenage United striker is a household name throughout the country.

Two goals on his senior debut in the Europa League against Midtjylland catapulted him into the national spotlight. 

It's all very well scoring twice against Danish minnows but, many asked, how would he fare against a league title-chasing side in the heat of a battle between two fierce rivals in a high stakes game?

Coolly, calmly and clinically, as it turned out.

Not only did he score twice on Thursday, but his pace, link-up play and direct style caused havoc to Midtjylland and his excellent all-round performance impressed throughout. 

Against Arsenal, Rashford showed signs of his youthful exuberance in the early stages, darting inside centre-backs Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny from the left touchline before being hauled down to earn a free-kick.

The opportunity of that set-piece was not taken but it mattered little as Rashford soon put United into a two-goal lead to make it four goals in two games. 

The young Mancunian pounced on a poor clearance to slam in the opener and then waltzed into space to head home Jesse Lingard's floated cross. 

But it was not just his finishing that caught the eye.

Rashford showed great awareness and composure to pick out the run of Ander Herrera, whose 20-yard shot took a wicked deflection off Laurent Koscielny. 

Something else impressed me too: his determination and desire to close down Petr Cech when the young striker put the goalkeeper under pressure from a backpass. 

Most young players would just make life difficult for the goalkeeper, but Rashford shut off the pass as well and Cech ended up giving away the ball and United won it back. 

No wonder he was given a standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful when he was replaced by Adnan Januzaj with ten minutes to play. 

Rashford seems to be blessed with the most valuable quality a striker can have - the knack of being in the right place at the right time to score goals.
He is a clinical poacher: his two goals against Midtjylland were typical striker's finishes and against Arsenal he twice showed clinical composure to snaffle the chances that came his way. 

When he scored twice on his debut on Thursday, the critics said he would just be the next Federico Macheda, the Italian whom scored three goals early on in his United career and then disappeared.

But Rashford already looks far superior and, like his United captain Wayne Rooney he's caused a buzz of excitement.

Although talk of England is ridiculous at this stage of Rashford's career, he could be special.

Very special indeed. 

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