The England youngster netted once more on Saturday to see off Aston Villa, and he must surely now be considered as United’s No.1 selection at the point of the attack.
It is quite the journey which has led Marcus Rashford to the status of first-choice Manchester United striker in the space
of less than two months. The 18-year-old was chosen to lead the line in favour of Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial on
Saturday and repaid Louis van Gaal with the only goal in the 1-0 win which confirmed Aston Villa’s long-expected relegation.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has seen the meteoric rise of the youngster so far that he scored another
vital goal for Van Gaal’s side. He scored the two goals which turned the Europa League tie against FC Midtjylland on its
head, then delivered the first two strikes in the crucial win over Arsenal three days later.
Add in the winner in a Manchester derby and the breakthrough goal against West Ham in the FA Cup quarter- final replay, and almost every one of Rashford’s goals have been match-defining in some way. His poacher’s finish from Antonio Valencia’s low cross was just the latest killer strike to tilt a game in United’s favour.
Rashford has now started 12
straight matches and netted seven of United’s 16 goals in that time. Nobody else has scored more than three in that
time. Rooney’s return after two months out with a knee injury was expected by some to force the No.39 out of the first XI, but
instead the England captain was slotted in to the attacking midfield line. Martial, meanwhile, was given the first 75 minutes off following a hefty workload over the course of the season. While the Frenchman will surely be back in the starting XI against Crystal Palace on Wednesday, it should
not be at the expense of Rashford but on the left-hand side instead.
Rashford’s tendency to stand up to the pressure at key moments in many games have helped an otherwise
uninspiring and ponderous United steer themselves gingerly towards a top-four challenge. A team making few chances
and scoring rarely have found a goalscoring outlet where they least expected it. Whereas Rooney has looked just as effective in deeper positions when given a different role, nobody looks as composed in the penalty area as Rashford.
One thing is for sure. He is one of the first names on Van Gaal’s teamsheet these days.