Tuesday 20 February 2018

Rashford shines as United reserves flex their muscles

Manchester Utd 4 Burton Albion 1

Tom Naylor of Burton Albion fouls Anthony Martial of Manchester United. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Tom Naylor of Burton Albion fouls Anthony Martial of Manchester United. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

James Ducker

Jose Mourinho had not been shy about demanding more goals from his attacking players at Manchester United this season and Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are certainly doing their best to answer their manager's call.

Overly dependent on Zlatan Ibrahimovic for goals last term, Mourinho was eager to guard against a similar situation developing with Romelu Lukaku this time around but if Rashford and Martial have started as they mean to go on, the Portuguese's fears will be allayed.

Brace

For the fourth time in the past seven matches, United got on the scoresheet four times, with a brace from Rashford, another goal for Martial and a first of the season for Jesse Lingard seeing the League Cup holders breeze into the fourth round at Burton Albion's expense.

Rashford now has five goals in his past five games, almost half his total of 11 last season, while Martial has managed four in just 280 minutes of total, not a bad return for a player who only got eight in the entirety of the previous campaign.

Burton claimed a consolation late on when Lloyd Dyer drilled home a shot following a goalmouth scramble after Joe Mason had headed against the crossbar but it was otherwise very one-sided.

Jose Mourinho is manager of the richest club in world football
Jose Mourinho is manager of the richest club in world football

The League Cup is often viewed as an irritation among leading managers. Not Jose Mourinho, though. From the moment he arrived in England with Chelsea in 2004, the ultimate trophy hunter attached plenty of significance to it and this season is clearly no different as he goes in search of a record fifth success in the competition, which would move him ahead of four-time winners, Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson.

There is a long way to go to the final on February 25, of course, but this was a purposeful start and an opportunity for experimentation, not least a switch to three at the back at half-time, by which point the game was as good as over as a contest.

Like his dad, Nigel Clough knows what it feels like to win the League Cup - he managed it twice in succession with his late father's Nottingham Forest - but he was honest enough to admit beforehand he was just hoping to be able to enjoy a post-match drink with Mourinho with some dignity intact.

Clough Jr had sat down to watch United's game against Everton on Sunday but turned it off after 10 minutes, conscious that if the Merseyside club could not get out of their half, his own players would have no chance. That attitude was reflected in his team selection.

Burton Albion's Lucas Akins in action with Manchester United's Luke Shaw. Photo: Reuters
Burton Albion's Lucas Akins in action with Manchester United's Luke Shaw. Photo: Reuters

Mourinho could afford to make nine changes - the surprise was Burton made as many. In truth, the Championship side's stand-ins did not disgrace themselves, and Victor Lindelof looked uncomfortable against Burton's forward duo Luke Varney and Joe Mason. The Swede endured a few dicey moments that suggest it may be a while before Mourinho opts to blood him in the Premier League. But the problem for the visitors was at the other end of the pitch, where they could not contain Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, in particular, or Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard.

Drilled

Rashford had scored twice inside 17 minutes and it was clear at that stage this was going to be a long night for Burton.

Michael Carrick, making his first start of the season, drilled a low pass into Lingard, making his first start since the European Super Cup defeat by Real Madrid on August 8. Holding off Ben Turner deep into the penalty area, Lingard laid the ball off to Rashford, who clipped his shot over Connor Ripley in the opposition goal.

Burton were always taking a risk standing off their opponents and so it proved again soon after when Tom Flanagan was not tight to Rashford, who sped away easily after receiving the ball from Daley Blind before launching a 20-yard shot past Ripley. The third goal arrived in the 37th minute, though, in a move expertly fashioned by Martial, who exchanged a one-two with Blind then drove forward and teed up Lingard, whose shot deflected off Turner to wrong foot Ripley.

Manchester United's Anthony Martial celebrates scoring his side's fourth goal of the game with team mate Ader Herrera. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manchester United's Anthony Martial celebrates scoring his side's fourth goal of the game with team mate Ader Herrera. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Mourinho opted to try something new in the second half. Off came Mata and on came Luke Shaw for his first appearance since April 30. Blind was moved into a three-man defence beside Chris Smalling and Lindelof. The change did nothing to disrupt United's rhythm. Martial danced past two men but shot too close to Ripley but made no mistake on the hour when, after a delicious one-two with Rashford, he finished coolly. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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