Red-hot Rashford hitting the right notes for United ahead of Manchester derby
LONDON – While most players ease their way back into their club side after a gruelling World Cup, Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford has not wasted any time, scoring in every match since his return to take his season’s tally to 15 goals.
The 25-year-old has scored seven times in six games in three different competitions to lead United back to the top four in the Premier League, the fourth round of the FA Cup and the semi-finals of the League Cup.
He also became the first player since the club’s top scorer Wayne Rooney in 2010 to net in eight home games in a row for United with a late double in Tuesday’s 3-0 League Cup win over Charlton Athletic.
Not bad for a forward who was woefully out of form last season and scored only five times in all competitions.
Following the win on Tuesday, United manager Erik ten Hag said that Rashford’s hot scoring form will continue as long as he keeps his focus and putting in the effort to work hard.
“What you see now with Rashy, that is quite obvious. It wasn’t at the start of the season, but now he is in the right moment,” he said.
Pundits have also been impressed. Former United captain Roy Keane, who is normally critical in his assessment of players, believes that Rashford – who also scored three goals at the World Cup – can be the Red Devils’ most important player now.
“This is what I expect from him now. I’m not surprised by what I’ve seen from him. I think he’s now becoming one of the main players for United,” he said recently.
“Can he get them back competing for trophies? He’s taking responsibility. I kind of expect (good performances) from Marcus every week. When he gets full-backs in one v ones, he’s going to go by you.”
Rashford’s turnaround in form is no coincidence and two major factors have contributed to his renaissance – the departure of hero-turned-villain Cristiano Ronaldo and the appointment of ten Hag.
Ronaldo’s arrival in 2021 was seen as a vanity signing as United were not a team who were struggling to score while Rashford was also on the rise having completed a second straight season with 20-plus goals.
But even as Ronaldo added to his burgeoning goals tally with 24 strikes, the rest of the team suffered as United struggled to their worst-ever Premier League points total of 58 last season.
Enter ten Hag, who laid down the law very early on and benched the ageing Ronaldo and changed their style of play to get the best out of all players on the pitch.
Ronaldo was left seething but United slowly began winning games again and the Portugal forward’s acrimonious exit lifted a pall that had hung over the club ever since they missed out on Champions League qualification.
Disciplinary issues marked the end for Ronaldo, who left games early after being upset at being benched, but Rashford has graciously accepted punishment and come out the better for it.
The England forward was left out of the starting line-up against Wolverhampton Wanderers in December after missing a team meeting but, instead of sulking, he came off the bench and scored the winner in a 1-0 win.
“We draw a line under it and move on, I was a little bit late for a meeting. I overslept but it can happen,” Rashford said then.
“Obviously it’s team rules, I made a mistake... but I understand the decision.”
Since losing 6-3 to Manchester City in October, United have won 15 of their 18 games, losing only once.
With games coming thick and fast, their eight-match winning streak will be put to the test when City visit Old Trafford on Saturday.
Alarm bells rang when City signed Erling Haaland, who has more than proved his worth with 27 goals in 22 games while United failed to land a striker in the market.
But in Rashford, ten Hag has a determined and dependable forward as United look to consolidate a top-four spot and return to the Champions League. - REUTERS
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