One’s man tight hamstring is another man’s ticket to the big time.
Few outside the English Premier League club had heard of Marcus Rashford before Manchester United’s latest European clash, but the 18-year-old scored twice on his debut to lift the gloom around Old Trafford.
Rashford was only afforded a start in the tie against Denmark’s FC Midtjylland after French striker Anthony Martial was injured in the warm up. He grabbed it with both hands.
The Manchester-born youngster’s fearless performance pushed United into the last 16 of the Europa League with a 5-1 win and eased the pressure on its embattled Dutch coach Louis van Gaal.
“I wasn’t worried about him. I’m always confident for that,” Van Gaal told reporters after the match. “He was the best option.”
Rashford has been playing in the club’s youth ranks, and was top scorer for the Under-18 side last season, while he has also represented United’s reserves.
Having operated as more of a wide midfielder in the past he has grown into the role of a central striker and the club’s recently departed academy coach Paul McGuinness has predicted a bright future for him.
“He can score unbelievable goals, dribbling past three defenders, but he needs to be more like Ruud van Nistelrooy where it goes in off his knee, or comes back off the bar or the keeper and he puts in the rebound,” he told the Manchester Evening News.
“Marcus has done very well and we’re getting him to be more focused on the goals now. He’s improved a lot and is ready for a step up as well. He’s starting to understand that part of his game and needs to now get a real goal addiction. He needs to score every type of goal.”
Rashford’s performance made up for the blow of losing Martial, who joins 13 players currently sidelined, but Van Gaal was hopeful the French striker’s injury was not too serious. Captain Wayne Rooney could be out until April with a knee injury while Spain goalkeeper David De Gea is also injured.
The club sit fifth in the Premier League, 12 points off leaders Leicester and six points behind Manchester City, who occupy the last European Champions League qualification spot.
United could also qualify for the Champions League if they win the Europa League and in the last 16 round they will play rivals Liverpool.
Some fans have called for Van Gaal to go after a disappointing campaign and there has been much speculation he will be replaced by Jose Mourinho. United host title-chasing Arsenal on Sunday.