Football Features

Marcus Rashford looking sharp again as Man Utd beat Brighton in this season’s weirdest game so far

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:58, 26 September 2020

In a heart-stopping game of football, Manchester United beat Brighton 2-3 with the last kick of the game.

The win is United’s first of the season albeit they were very fortunate to pick up the victory having been outplayed by an effervescent Brighton side that had 18 shots, hit the woodwork on an absurd four separate occasions (the highest amount in a single game since records began) scored an audacious Panenka penalty and managed a 95th minute equaliser.

Brighton showed Manchester United exactly what they were missing with a sensational display from both Tariq Lamptey and Solly March at full-back. Whilst Luke Shaw did little and Aaron Wan-Bissaka defended and that’s about it, Lamptey and March drove Brighton forward at every opportunity.

Lamptey won Brighton’s first penalty with a searing run and looked dangerous every time he roamed forward. March on the other hand was a constant threat at the back-post, always finding space as Wan-Bissaka had to collapse centrally to help the hapless Victor Lindelof. And all this persistence paid off when March headed Brighton level in the 90th minute.

Or so he thought. United raced up the other end and thanks to an ingenious pass from Marcus Rashford, won a corner. From that corner, they won a penalty. From that penalty, they won the game. All glory to Bruno Fernandes (redemption after giving away the Brighton penalty) but it was Rashford’s pass that forced the game-winning corner.

The ball broke to him inside the box and rather than shoot into a crowd of Brighton defenders as a desperate player would, he pulled back and slipped a delicious pass into space for sub Donny van de Beek to run onto. Brighton blocked van de Beek’s cross at the expense of a corner and the rest was history.

It wasn’t Rashford’s first moment of quality in the game either. The Englishman was by far the best of the United front three, showing a smooth and intelligent movement that even a brilliant Brighton struggled with. He set-up Mason Greenwood for a lovely goal but was ruled offside, he later scored a lovely goal (being set-up by Greenwood) but was again ruled out for offside.

Finally, Rashford broke through and gave United the lead which looked for all the world to be the match-winner. Bruno Fernandes played him in down the left and Rashford scorched away from markers before turning Ben White inside out and then thundering the ball into the back of the net. A thunderous strike and a much-needed return to form.

In the first-half of last season, any successes Manchester United had came almost solely off the work of Rashford. The England international consistently showed up for The Red Devils, especially in big games where he scored or assisted most of United’s goals in those crunch clashes. He was the one keeping United afloat.

Then Rashford got injured, a spinal fracture. He literally broke his back carrying his team. Without the magnificent Englishman (who looked set to smash through the 20-goal mark and maybe even threaten 30) all hope looked lost for Solskjaer.

Then Bruno Fernandes arrived, Paul Pogba became fit again, and suddenly United were a good football team. The Red Devils began ripping through teams, playing sensational football on the way. The pandemic-enforced hiatus allowed Rashford to get fit, and United returned from lockdown with a team overflowing with talent.

But whilst United played sensationally, something was off about Rashford. He scored just three further goals, against Bournemouth, Southampton and Crystal Palace. But at no point did he look remotely dangerous in the way that he constantly did prior to lockdown – not in the Premier League, FA Cup nor the Europa League.

Of course what seemed to be overlooked during all this was that he came back from a fractured spine. There was no way he was 100% fit but such was the paucity of attacking options available to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he had no choice but to play Rashford. The English’s form meant that he commanded respect and defensive attention and that made him better than Jesse Lingard and Daniel James.

But today he finally looked back to his best, a true return to form. This was a decisive and deliberate performance where despite receiving little help from United’s high-powered team-mates and when facing up to a dogged and determined Brighton side, he pulled match-winning moments out of nowhere.

The pass for van de Beek, the pass for Greenwood, the disallowed goal and finally the goal that stood where he stretched his legs and twisted Brighton inside out before scoring a stunner. These moments highlighted a superb performance from Marvellous Marcus Rashford where he stuck to football and then stuck it to Brighton to gift the Red Devils a massive victory.