Marcus Rashford made quite an impact on his return to Manchester United’s starting line-up.
The 20-year-old scored both goals in United’s 2-1 Premier League victory against Liverpool.
The last few months have seen the Manchester-born academy product’s remarkable rise plateau somewhat as he has had to make do with substitute appearances under Jose Mourinho’s management.
Saturday’s clash with bitter rivals Liverpool was his first Premier League start since Boxing Day – and just his third in all competitions in 2018 – but Rashford provided a reminder of his capabilities by scoring twice.
Here, we take a look at some of the factors that may influence whether Mourinho gives the young forward more opportunities.
The Sanchez situation
The worry among United fans when Alexis Sanchez arrived from Arsenal at the end of January was that the signing could stunt Rashford’s development. It is rarely the case that a young, inexperienced academy product gets the nod over an established world star when it comes to first-team opportunities. While it might be over-dramatic to suggest Rashford’s growth has been stunted, signing the Chilean has certainly had an impact. Rashford has slipped down the pecking order with the vast array of forwards at Old Trafford, with Saturday the first time he had started a Premier League match since Sanchez has been at the club. Mourinho has yet to find the ideal position to play Sanchez and that does not help Rashford’s cause either.
A man for the big occasion
Rashford never lets Mourinho down and that counts in his favour. He was Mourinho’s most used player in 2017, with 61 appearances for United in all competitions. His goals against Anderlecht and Celta Vigo ensured no player was more important in the Reds’ run to the Europa League final.
Since his breakthrough two years ago, Rashford has already scored crucial goals against Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and now Liverpool. He has three goals in this season’s Champions League and with vital games against Sevilla in the knock-out stages of that competition, an FA Cup quarter-final against Brighton and a huge derby clash with Manchester City all coming up in the next four weeks, Rashford could be Mourinho’s go-to man once more.
Rashford may not start quite as regularly as he did before Sanchez’s arrival but his latest heroics prove he undoubtedly has a future at Old Trafford. The boos that greeted his 70th-minute substitution for Marouane Fellaini on Saturday suggest United supporters agree. Rashford is Manchester-born, supports United and Reds fans see him as one of their own, another continuation of the club’s proud tradition of giving young players a chance. Mourinho is aware of such history surrounding United and as long as Rashford’s performances remain at a high level, he will continue to get opportunities.
Manchester United’s Champions League last-16 second-leg clash with Sevilla will be live on BT Sport 2 – 7.45pm kick-off on Tuesday night.