Marcus Rashford continued his recent revival with a goal and assist to help Manchester United beat Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Tuesday night.
When Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure was announced just before the World Cup, some Man Utd fans were worrying about the future of their front line. Some were calling for the club to spend big in the January transfer window, with Cody Gakpo the prime target. But the reality is, while they do ideally need another name for competition up front, they didn’t really need to replace Ronaldo.
First of all, Ronaldo had been weaned out of the starting XI by Erik ten Hag as the Dutchman rightly looked to build for the future and the big name was often counterproductive when on the pitch despite the fact he could still score a big goal. Secondly, Rashford had slowly been getting back to his best.
Due to a ridiculous number of games played over the past few years (and nothing to do with his focuses off the pitch as some would like to claim), we haven’t really seen the best of Rashford of late for Man Utd or England. The summer of 2022 was his first real break for some time and it appears to be paying off.
Rashford started the season on the wing but was quickly put central after Ronaldo was dropped and, on his first start as a striker under Ten Hag, scored in the 2-1 win over Liverpool – the Red Devils’ first victory of the season. The Englishman added another eight goals across all competitions before the World Cup, continuing his scoring form even after returning out wide following Anthony Martial’s recovery from injury.
England fans got some of that success at the World Cup as Rashford scored three goals in five games, including two in the 3-0 win over Wales to help the Three Lions secure their spot in the last 16. For Man Utd fans, though, it was all about how he returned from Qatar.
Due to England’s quarter-final exit, Rashford was able to return for Man Utd in time for the EFL Cup fourth round and he scored in their 2-0 win over Burnley, having started on the right of the attacking midfield trio. Against Nottingham Forest, Rashford was back on the left to accommodate Antony’s return to the starting XI, but the result was the same.
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Just under 20 minutes into the game, Man Utd had a corner on the right which was taken by Christian Eriksen. Man Utd had loaded the box for the aerial attack but Eriksen instead went low to the middle of the box where Rashford was on hand to fire a tricky finish past Wayne Hennessey. It was Rashford’s 10th goal of the season across all competitions for Man Utd, and fifth in the Premier League, more than he managed in 25 appearances in 2021/23.
Within three minutes, Man Utd were 2-0 ahead and Rashford was involved again, this time teeing up Martial on the edge of the area having chopped inside the defender to find space, showing just how little the Red Devils miss Ronaldo.
Rashford ended the game with three shots in total, more than any other Man Utd player, as well as five touches inside the opposition box – the joint-most for the Red Devils alongside Bruno Fernandes. But it was Casemiro who stole the headlines for an outstanding performance.
The Brazilian effectively started the move for Martial’s goal with a fantastic tackle in his own half, and another tackle and pass from him set up Fred for the third and final strike of the match. He had the second-most touches of any Man Utd player (104), created the joint-most chances (three), attempted and completed more passes and made a match-high five tackles alongside three clearances and two interceptions.
“Different class,” Alan Shearer said of Casemiro. “Makes everything look effortless. His ability to read the game and see pictures before everyone else does. He’s a class act.”
Fans on Twitter were in agreement with Casemiro, hailing the Brazilian for his impact at Man Utd on the night and across the season as a whole.
Casemiro's game by numbers vs. Nottingham Forest:
100% aerial duels won
28 final ⅓ passes
13 passes into final ⅓
7 duels won
5 tackles made
3 chances created
1 through ball
Wait until you see the heat map… pic.twitter.com/124MTIi3Ki
— Squawka (@Squawka) December 27, 2022
Casemiro is one of the most consistently eye-catching defensive midfielders to watch. When he's playing well, he makes you notice he's playing well.
— Jake Entwistle (@JakeEntwistle) December 27, 2022
I’m sorry but Casemiro is genuinely the best defensive midfielder in the world I can’t believe he plays for Manchester United man.
— ًEl. (@UtdEIIis) December 27, 2022
Not only is Casemiro making a mockery of the Premier League, but he is so clearly loving it too. Celebrates every goal like it’s his 6th Champions League. pic.twitter.com/M5dBiw8JkN
— Sam Homewood (@SamHomewood) December 27, 2022
Erik ten Hag knew what he meant when he called Casemiro the "CEMENT" in Manchester United's midfield.
Out of words to describe this guy. What a player!! 👑 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/57193XFXu9
— UtdFaithfuls (@UtdFaithfuls) December 27, 2022
Casemiro has absolutely bossed this game from start to finish. Superb
— Mark Goldbridge (@markgoldbridge) December 27, 2022
Casemiro. You are special pic.twitter.com/bUsY1VBXQ3
— Kam #8🏁 (@Culturecams) December 27, 2022
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) December 27, 2022
Lost for words on Casemiro, this guy can do no wrong. Effective simplicity. Retention. Ball-winning. Decision making. Sheer quality.
— h (@htomufc) December 27, 2022
Casemiro is just a step ahead of everybody.
He's been ridiculous at covering all game + that is crowning moment. Waited for right moment then anticipated when to intercept.
The pass is exquisite. Neat finish Fred.
Brazilian combo. #MUFC
— Laurie Whitwell (@lauriewhitwell) December 27, 2022