Wednesday 20 February 2019

Striker must take the rash out of Rashford to make it to the top

Rashford is a boyhood United fan raised in nearby Wythenshawe who plays with the sort of passion that can create legends, although disciplinary issues may turn out to be a painful side-effect. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Rashford is a boyhood United fan raised in nearby Wythenshawe who plays with the sort of passion that can create legends, although disciplinary issues may turn out to be a painful side-effect. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Mike Whalley

It says much for Marcus Rashford that there are those at Manchester United who now mention him in the same breath as Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. The ability is there; sometimes, though, he may need to control the fire.

Rashford - a goalscorer alongside Paul Pogba in the 2-1 win over Brighton on Saturday - is a boyhood United fan raised in nearby Wythenshawe who plays with the sort of passion that can create legends, although disciplinary issues may turn out to be a painful side-effect.

At Burnley in September, he was called "naive" by Jose Mourinho after a red card for leaning his head into Phil Bardsley. Against Brighton, with a fabulous goal to his credit, he was booked for sending Martin Montoya flying with a wild challenge by the touchline.

Caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has done so much for Rashford's confidence since replacing Mourinho, felt the need to have a quiet word.

"He is a proper Manc," Solskjaer said. "You can't kick him and keep him down. He will stand up for a fight and stand up for himself and a team-mate.

"But he knows, and we spoke about it. Don't give stupid fouls away against Brighton because they are going to get you in trouble."

It is easy to forget Rashford is only 21. It will be three years next month since he burst into the first team with four goals in four days, two against Midtjylland in the Europa League and two against Arsenal, who may suffer at his hands again in the FA Cup on Friday.

Against Brighton, Rashford made his 150th United appearance, reaching that milestone at a younger age than both Rooney and Ronaldo.

He was effectively the match-winner, adding to Pogba's penalty with an exquisite piece of skill, bamboozling Pascal Gross with speedy footwork before steering an angled shot into the top corner.

It was the striker's 41st goal for United, and while Rooney managed 59 in his first 150 games for the club, Ronaldo scored only 31.

Solskjaer said: "He can be absolutely top class. He is only 21, but the maturity he is showing at times is more than you would expect."

Rashford saw his influence fade as United tired, and it proved to be a nervous finish after Gross pulled a goal back with 18 minutes left.

The visitors began to accumulate pressure with set-pieces, which was why the striker's foul on Montoya frustrated Solskjaer. Those inside Old Trafford, though, are confident that Rashford will learn.

"I've said it from the time he broke into the team and even before then, he can be an unbelievable talent," captain Ashley Young said. "He's got the world ahead of him. He wants to learn as well. I saw it from his youth team days."

Rashford has scored five goals during the seven-match winning run under Solskjaer as temporary United manager, although whether it will become a permanent one is another matter.

Rooney, now playing his football in the United States, said over the weekend that the club should go all out to attract Mauricio Pochettino from Tottenham. Ed Woodward, United's executive vice-chairman, is understood to be considering Pochettino, former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane and Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone.

Solskjaer has proved he has the temperament for the role, calmly describing Mourinho as a "fantastic manager" when asked about the pronouncements his predecessor has been making as a television pundit in Doha.

The Norwegian can also take some comfort from the words of Chris Hughton, the Brighton manager.

"I don't think it's a job that anybody could automatically step into and do well," Hughton said.

"He's got very good tools to play with, but it's absolutely not a given that he would walk in and get the results that he's had." (© The Daily Telegraph)

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