Just under seven years after bursting onto the scene and being dubbed Manchester United’s biggest talent in years, Marcus Rashford is finally living up to the hype consistently.
When he scored two goals on his senior debut against Midtjylland and followed it up with another two against Arsenal, he looked set to become his club’s star attacker, but it hasn’t been a smooth road.
An earlier false dawn came in the 2019/20 campaign when he got 22 goals in 44 matches, only to get just 26 across the two seasons that followed it.
Now though, Rashford is looking better than ever, and is fast becoming the talisman the Old Trafford faithful have been crying out for.
Prior to this season, the 25-year had more often than not served as a support act to the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Given that, as soon as it became clear that Ronaldo didn’t have a future at the club, fans began to call for someone new to be signed to lead the frontline.
While Erik ten Hag bought Antony though, he wasn’t able to bring in a striker, leading supporters to believe their team simply didn’t have the goalscorers needed to enjoy a strong season.
That hasn’t proved to be the case though with Rashford stepping up to the plate, filling the void left by Ronaldo and then some.
He didn’t do so immediately, struggling in the first two matches of the season, but as soon as things began to click for the team under Ten Hag, he became their key player.
In the next six matches, he got five goals and three assists, and then scored three more times in the final six games prior to the World Cup. He carried his strong form into the tournament in Qatar, getting three goals, and then scored in his club’s first two matches back afterwards.
He was looking better than ever, but when it emerged that he was to be dropped for the match against Wolves due to disciplinary issues, it sparked fears that his progress could stall. However, his absence from the starting XI instead only highlighted just how important he has become.
Ten Hag’s side were able to create a few openings in the first half of the game but weren’t able to convert them, with Alejandro Garnacho and Antony both missing huge chances.
It was clear that they were lacking a clinical finisher as well as someone who was able to create something out of nothing, but thankfully they had just the player on the bench.
Rashford changed the game as soon as he came on, injecting some much-needed intensity and directness into United’s attacks. By the 75-minute mark, he’d already created a few chances and was their most threatening player by a long way, so it was no surprise whatsoever to see him open the scoring almost single-handedly.
He picked up the ball on the left, jinked past his opponent, played the ball to Bruno Fernandes and continued his run into the box. When he then beat two defenders to the return pass, cut inside and hit the ball hard and low to give Jose Sa no chance.
Less than 10 minutes later, he got his second goal only to have VAR somewhat harshly disallow it, but his first proved to be enough to win the match anyway.
For the half that he was on, he was a one-man attacking force able to dominate defenders, create chances all by himself and finish those that fell to him, and Man Utd haven’t had that type of player in a long time.
Just as encouraging as what he did with the ball at his feet was his attitude too.
It would have been a relief for United fans that he was only dropped for oversleeping and showing up to a meeting late, and an even bigger relief to see how well he handled being put on the bench.
Unlike a certain someone currently looking up homes in Saudi Arabia, he didn’t throw his toys out of the pram, despite the fact that it was a fairly harsh punishment for a minor bit of misconduct. Instead, he accepted it and gave his all for his manager and team when called upon, squashing any fears of a wider issue.
It would be an exaggeration to say he’s the answer to all of his club’s problems and that they don’t need to sign a striker now. However, with him performing so well, maybe they don’t need to splash the cash on a superstar, but instead on a player who can help get the best out of him like Olivier Giroud helps get the best out of Kylian Mbappe for France.
After years as a proverbial backup dancer, Marcus Rashford is finally becoming the main man in Manchester.