Manchester United maintained their 100% start to the 2016-17 campaign before the international break with a dramatic but deserved late win over surprise package Hull City.
After good work from Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford tapped in the 92nd-minute winner and the exciting youngster, who scored a hat-trick on his England under-21 debut earlier this week, produced a brilliant 19-minute cameo at the KCOM Stadium.
With his goal, Rashford, who is yet to start a competitive match for United this season, became the first teenager to score a Premier League goal for a team managed by Jose Mourinho and he’s given the “Special One” a serious selection dilemma.
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The teenage sensation has had to be patient under Mourinho after bursting onto the scene last term courtesy of Louis van Gaal, but there’s no doubt that he can make a big impact for the FA Cup holders in the Manchester derby.
Most people, including United legend Paul Scholes, feel that Rashford deserves a place in Mourinho’s starting XI for Saturday’s match. He’s a local lad, not to mention he scored the winner when the two clubs last met back in March – but here are the key reasons why.
Injection of pace
The Red Devils have needed pace, dynamism and width in attacking areas for many years now, and Rashford provides exactly that, along with the ability to create something out of nothing.
As soon as the Englishman finds space, the first thing he wants to do is run with the ball and ask questions of defenders. He scares opponents with his raw acceleration, he’s extremely direct and the 18-year-old plays the game in a completely fearless manner.
Ibrahimovic needs runners
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a superstar capable of scoring almost any type of goal, however he isn’t the quickest striker. In order to utilise the big Swede’s incredible vision and awareness, United need players around him who are willing to make forward, penetrating runs off the ball.
Rashford loves to run in behind defences, stretch teams, and get defenders facing their own goal. With Zlatan’s ability, he’ll be able to slot passes through to the youngster and begin adding assists to his already impressive start at the club.
Mourinho said that Rashord made a “big difference” at Hull and also claimed that he and Ibrahimovic are capable of playing upfront together, suggesting the 34-year-old would operate just behind the man 16 years his younger.
Who would Rashford replace?
Anthony Martial and Juan Mata were the two players substituted off as United went in search of victory against Hull and it’s their starting places which could be most at risk.
As good a player as Mata is in terms of technical skill and creativity, he lacks pace and strength. Plus, it’s felt as though the Spaniard has only been in the starting line-up to give the currently injured Henrikh Mkhitaryan time to adjust to English football following his summer move from Borussia Dortmund.
Even though Rashford is a natural centre-forward, his pace and directness would have a big impact coming off either wing, so he could replace Mata or even Martial.
The 20-year-old was United’s top scorer in his first season at the club but he hasn’t quite reached the level he was at last year. The recent problems in Martial’s private life may have affected him mentally, however he did register his first senior international goal for France in Italy last week.
Mourinho blessed with options
The likes of Jesse Lingard and Memphis Depay weren’t even on the bench for the trip to Hull, so Mourinho has plenty of options at his disposal as he prepares for his first taste of the Manchester derby.
The quartet of Rashford, Rooney, Martial and Ibrahimovic could pose major problems for Manchester City – who already have to deal with the absence of Sergio Aguero through suspension. Only Rooney has scored more Premier League goals in the Manchester derby than City’s Argentinian superstar.
With the speed of Rashford and Martial added to the class of Rooney and Ibrahimovic, Pep Guardiola may find himself up against a potentially devastating Man United front four at Old Trafford.
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