Football Features

Marcus Rashford: Mr Man Utd puts problems behind him as Red Devils move up to seventh

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:22, 1 February 2024

Marcus Rashford answered his critics with a starring role in Manchester United’s 4-3 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Englishman was dropped from Manchester United’s squad to face Newport County in the FA Cup at the weekend, after more off-field issues. Earlier this season, Rashford was reprimanded for celebrating his birthday just hours after Man Utd were beaten 3-0 at Old Trafford by Manchester City.

Last week, he missed training due to reported illness, but was pictured the night before partying in Belfast into the early hours of the morning. In the build up to Man Utd’s trip to Molineux on Thursday night, there was a lot of speculation as to whether Rashford had been punished and if he would be in the matchday squad.

He wasn’t just in the matchday squad, Rashford started at Molineux, with Erik ten Hag insistent that the matter was done.

“We didn’t select him on Sunday, he has taken responsibility. Case closed, we move on,” he told TNT Sports before the game.

Of the situation as a whole, Rio Ferdinand added: “We don’t know exactly what happened. The club have looked at it and it looks like disciplinary action has been taken, so he’s obviously taken out of line somewhere.

“To me, it looks like he’s missed training. If we’re all being honest, we’ve done things where we stepped out of line in our career. Fortunately for me, I was protected by a club that was in a good position, that was doing well, that was confident. All eyes weren’t on us for the wrong reasons. And sometimes you have to be aware of where your club are, and what your position is, and what your role is within that. And you have to take the right steps.

“People are allowed to make mistakes, but in this situation — and again, you’re not looking at someone like Marcus Rashford as being a young kid. He’s one of the most experienced players here.

“He is Mr. Manchester United right now. He’s propelled himself into that position with his performances prior to this and you have to then act accordingly.

“And I think he’s let his guard down in this situation, he seems to have been punished behind the scenes.”

A man out of form, Rashford wasted very little time to show remind everyone what he is capable of, opening the scoring inside five minutes. It was a lovely finish from the edge of the box, almost passed into the bottom corner after Rasmus Hojlund’s layoff. Rashford’s fifth Premier League goal of the season, it was also the second-earliest strike of his career in the competition, after netting against Cardiff City in December 2018 in the third minute.

Rashford has now either scored or assisted a Premier League goal in four consecutive appearances for the first time in a year, since doing five in a row between January and February 2023. The Englishman was also involved in the second goal, highlighting just how much Man Utd had missed his connection with Luke Shaw.

Holding onto the ball on the wing, Rashford waited for the perfect moment to play in the overlapping Shaw, whose pass into the box was diverted home by Hojlund. A confidence-building performance, it was the first time Premier League have led by two goals at half-time this season and just the fourth occasion overall under Ten Hag.

Rashford was taken off after 73 minutes, and ended the match with eight touches inside the opposition box — more than any other Man Utd player — as well as 90.5% pass accuracy, one completed take-on and 11 passes in the final third.

Wolves did step up in the second half and we looked set for an intriguing finish after Pablo Sarabia pulled a goal back from the spot, following what was an extremely soft penalty call. But exactly four minutes later, Scott McTominay headed home from a corner — his first touch after coming off the bench — to restore Man Utd’s two-goal advantage.

Maximilian Kilman made it 3-2 with just over five minutes left to play and Pedro Neto looked to have nicked a point, but Kobbie Mainoo won the game for the Red Devils with a wonderful curling finish in the sixth minute of injury time.