Rashford can be just as important as Mbappe if the scoring run continues

Rashford can be just as important as Mbappe if the scoring run continues

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  • January 14, 2023
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1:32 p.m. ETdawson rob News For Everyone Zoohouse News

Rob Dawson correspondent

MANCHESTER, England – After Marcus Rashford scored the winning goal in the 189th Manchester Derby, Marcus Rashford stayed on the Old Trafford lawn to attend to his post-game media duties. He then greeted the Manchester United fans who stayed behind to celebrate the 2-1 comeback win over Manchester City at the Stretford End and was greeted with a rendition of his song: “Like Manchester, Rashford is red.”

Terrace chant has been heard a lot lately as Rashford completed the best shot on goal of his career. His close-range finish against Ederson in the 82nd minute against City extended his streak to at least one goal in seven straight games. The last time he played at Old Trafford and failed to find a net was against Tottenham on October 19.

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Rashford is a player revived under manager Erik ten Hag after the Dutchman inherited a striker who had scored just five goals in 32 games in the 2021-22 league season. For comparison, the 25-year-old has already scored five goals in 2023 and the year is only 14 days old.

Saturday’s win brought United within a point of second-placed City (six behind Arsenal) and if that means Ten Hag’s side are genuine title challengers then the length of the day will depend in part on how long Rashford meets. New loanee forward Wout Weghorst, signed on Friday, watched the derby from the directors’ box and is hoping the Dutchman will be a valuable option in the second half of the season.

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Still, it’s questionable whether the squad has enough firepower to continue in four competitions. Cristiano Ronaldo has left and there is no date for Jadon Sancho’s return after a break to mend his loss of form. Anthony Martial had to pass a fitness test before being selected to start against City but lasted just 45 minutes and was substituted at half-time. Teenager Alejandro Garnacho helped change the game when he came on in the 72nd minute, but beyond that the only other attacking option on the bench was Anthony Elanga, who hasn’t scored all season.

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After Saturday’s win, Ten Hag Rashford was grateful to have continued despite suffering a groin injury late in the first half. After cornering City defender Kyle Walker, he fell to the ground while holding the top of his left leg and slammed his hands on the turf in frustration. When Antony came out to warm up at half-time, the assumption was that Brazilian winger would replace Rashford, but Martial came out instead.

For Ten Hag, it was a sequence that indicated Rashford’s newfound resilience and he was rewarded with a key role in the comeback. While many will argue whether the striker interfered with Bruno Fernandes’ goal to make it 1-1, the goal stood and minutes later he scored his fifth derby goal to seal the win. It was also saying a lot that Rashford was in the right place to score the winner from Garnacho’s cross, despite missing two good chances in the first half, one of which Walker cleared off the line.

“He knows that in top-flight football you have to suffer and make sacrifices,” said Ten Hag. “You have your painful moments, especially a player like him, he’s unstoppable. The opponents will be tough on him to stop him, but you have to deal with it. I think he’s capable of it. He keeps going and continues to focus on his chances. In the end he was rewarded and the team was rewarded.”

Marcus Rashford is a player who was revived under Erik ten Hag. Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

With United at training camp in Spain during the World Cup break, Ten Hag felt emboldened to compare Rashford to Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe in style. It was a big statement from the United manager but after eight goals in seven games in all competitions it doesn’t look that outlandish.

The point Ten Hag wanted to make was that while Rashford has always had the physical and technical qualities to be considered one of the best in the world, his consistency is what distinguishes the true top players. He’s found it since returning from Qatar and looks like the player United fans were hoping for when he burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old in 2016. If he continues to score goals, not only will he surpass his previous best for a season of 22 – his goal against City was his 16th in all competitions – but he will also inspire more comparisons to the likes of Mbappe.

Ten Hag needs Rashford to maintain his form long enough for him to sleep at Weghorst and get Martial back to full fitness. Otherwise, the progress made could be hampered by a lack of cutting edge.

Rashford’s goals propelled United into title contention and had fans dreaming of a first Premier League title since 2013. His latest attempt was enough to secure a first derby win at Old Trafford since 2020 and bolstered the chant that like Rashford, Manchester are red.

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