Marcus Rashford came off the bench to help Manchester United beat Wolves 1-0 in the Premier League, having been dropped by manager Erik ten Hag.
Now a bigger part of the Man Utd attack following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, Rashford ensured the Portuguese forward was not missed in the 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest in midweek, with a goal and an assist playing on the wing, linking up well with Anthony Martial.
So when the starting XI was announced an hour before kick-off, Ten Hag caused some murmurs as Rashford was demoted to the bench. While rotation isn’t rare during the busy Christmas period, Rashford was expected to be one of the first names on the team sheet, perhaps the number one outfield player when it comes to must starts.
With experience of the club, former Man Utd midfielder Paul Scholes hypothesised that disciplinary reasons could be something as minor as not turning up on time.
“It’s difficult to know the truth really, internal disciplinary, you think lateness,” he told BT Sport.
“But I love him, the way he’s honest, he’s got the lad in the form of his life who will be a big part today he’d be coming into this game expecting to score goals and win the game. To stand by his guns, we’ll see if it’s a wise decision.”
Download the new Squawka Live app
- Download the Squawka Live app on the App Store or Google Play (here's the link). Currently, the app is available in the UK only.
- Follow your favourite sports, teams and leagues to receive notifications.
- Compare odds and set alerts for specific match scenarios.
- Use Squawka Live as your second screen with real-time updates from free-kicks to blocked shots and offsides.
It was later confirmed by Rashford that it was in fact lateness, with the Englishman oversleeping and missing a team meeting.
“Obviously it’s the team rules, and I think it’s a mistake that can happen,” he explained to BT Sport. “I’m obviously disappointed not to play but I understand the decision.
“I was a little bit late for a meeting. Slept in, I overslept, it can happen.”
There were also some worries, particularly from Scholes, that Rashford might be wasting himself having been in such good form in recent time, moving away from an underwhelming 2021/22 for club and country.
Scholes added: “He’s jeopardising his own form a little bit being stupid or whatever he’s done is wrong and the manager has seen it to take him out the team.
“But when he is on form, he’s looked so happy and if you look over the last 18 months, he’s looked miserable and hasn’t performed, could this jeopardise him going forward? He looks a bit miserable there [warming up] because he’s not playing but I hope it doesn’t jeopardise the next six months of the season.”
Marcus Rashford's game by numbers vs. Wolves:
100% shot accuracy
93% pass accuracy
5 touches in opp. box
3x possession won
2 shots on target
Off the bench to score the winner. ⚽ pic.twitter.com/nJBANLwwBT
— Squawka (@Squawka) December 31, 2022
“At a top club like this it has to be like that, there has to be discipline,” Man Utd defender Luke Shaw said post-match. “The manager takes all of that into consideration.
“People have got away with silly things before. Like you’ve seen today, if you don’t do the little things right then you won’t play.”
But with Man Utd struggling to find the killer touch in the first half, Ten Hag turned to Rashford at half-time, a decision that would ultimately win them the game. With just under 15 minutes left to play, as Man Utd looked set for more frustration against Wolves — they started 2022 with a 1-0 defeat to the Midlands club — Rashford took his chance.
The Englishman picked up the ball on the left and made his way into the box via a one-two with Bruno Fernandes. Surrounded by players, Rashford managed to find himself a bit of space, aided by a fortunate deflection, before powering the ball under Jose Sa. It was Rashford’s sixth Premier League goal of the season, but the first away from Old Trafford and his first away league goal since netting at Brentford in January.