Football Features

“Marcus is a blessing” – Rashford scores historic goal to deliver Man Utd decisive Europa League win over Granada

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:48, 8 April 2021

In a tense night of football, Manchester United beat Granada 0-2 in their Europa League quarter-final first-leg.

The win gives the Red Devils a great chance of advancing to the semi-finals although they will be without three key players through suspensions in the second-leg at Old Trafford as Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay all picked up bookings.

They will go into that second-leg with a win, however, thanks to their performance tonight. Thanks to a penalty from Bruno Fernandes and a quite spectacular goal from Marcus Rashford.

For the third match in a row, Marcus Rashford played through pain and carrying a knock. For the second match in a row, Manchester United seemed to have no idea how to score a goal until Marcus Rashford stepped up and showed them how.

On the one hand you lament Ole Gunnar Solskjaer constantly starting him when he is obviously not fit. It seems a callous use of a player who should be protected and shielded from the brutal schedule of modern football.

But on the other hand you can see how absolutely toothless Manchester United are without him, how they are so desperately reliant on Rashford to pull something out of nothing and give United’s bark some bite.

The goal itself was a work of art, with Rashford curving a run inside the full-back that left Granada’s high-line with absolutely no chance to stop him. Victor Lindelof spotted the run and, being under no pressure, played a beauty of a pass 80 yards into Rashford’s path. The Englishman killed the ball with an unreal first-touch and then stabbed home from close range.

That goal was his 20th of the season, meaning that he is the first United player to score 20 goals in consecutive seasons since Wayne Rooney managed in 2009 and 2010. Yes, that’s right, it’s been over a decade.

Sure, in that time United have had some great individual seasons from strikers. Rooney himself in 2011/12, Robin van Persie in 2012/13, Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2016/17, Romelu Lukaku in 2017/18… alright maybe just those four guys. But no one has done it back to back until Rashford this season, all while playing through the pain.

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“Marcus has been absolutely fantastic. He’s been magic for Manchester United,” said Owen Hargreaves on BT Sport after the match, before singing his praises some more: “he just gives United so much; touch is good, he runs in behind, he comes short.”

That all-around attacking ability was echoed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in his post-match press conference: “The first goal; very good run from Rashford, he takes the ball fantastically and a fantastic finish,” and then spoke of Rashford and his other goalscorer Bruno Fernandes: “They have been exceptional. they have been so good for us. And they’re so important for us,” which explains why they play all the time.

Of course the ideal scenario would be that they could get some rest, or at least some help. With both Hargreaves and Paul Scholes commenting that United need more than just Rashford if they are to hit that next level. According to Scholes, Rashford being the first in a decade to hit 20 in consecutive seasons is “why they haven’t competed for big trophies really, since Wayne Rooney has gone. Since brilliant centre-forwards have gone. Man Utd’s always about players at the top-end of the pitch being able to score a goal.”

Hargreaves concurred, summing up Marcus Rashford’s position with Manchester United: “just feels like maybe they need someone else with him, so he can play off the left, whether that’s gonna be Haaland or somebody else. Marcus is a blessing.”