It doesn’t matter who scores the goals, as long as they go in. When Manchester United beat Chelsea 4-0 on Sunday, a result even the most optimistic Red couldn’t have predicted, it didn’t really matter who got their name on the scoresheet. We needed a result and we got it.
That said, given the choice, there are some players you enjoy seeing score more than others. If we had the option to decide that young Daniel James would on his debut in front of the Stretford End, weeks after his father sadly passed away, we would’ve gone for it.
Likewise, there’s something special and validating about every goal that Marcus Rashford scores for us. A boyhood United fan who has been at the club since he was seven, sticking it in the back of the net and grabbing the badge in celebration, means something.
Having signed a lengthy in contract in the summer and thrust in to a more prominent role by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, there’s the sense, or at least the hope, that this campaign could be a big one for Rashford.
The sale of Romelu Lukaku, coupled with the club’s decision not to replace him, adds more pressure on Rashford’s shoulders, but then pressure is something the striker has never had a problem with.
We all know his story inside out, so there’s no point dwelling on it too much, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that this is a lad who has scored on his debut in every competition for United, and scored minutes in to his first appearance for England after a whirlwind five months saw him promoted from the academy, to first team, and then getting an international call up.
Thrown in at the deep end in February 2015, injuries to all our other strikers meant Rashford would start in the Europa League tie against Midtjylland. Not overawed by the occasion, an 18-year-old Rashford scored twice, embracing the crowd in celebration.
Days later we faced Arsenal and it seemed impossible that he would repeat the feat, but he did, scoring twice again, before showing up at Ashton on Mersey Sixth Form the following day.
Rarely used as the main striker, rather playing wide to accommodate more experienced forwards like Robin van Persie, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Lukaku, he learnt a lot.
Yet it didn’t take too long for some fans to grow impatient with Rashford’s lack of goals and sometimes disappointing finishing. He would do all the hard work and then fluff his lines, which was all to reminiscent of another Manc we had invested so much affection in previously, Danny Welbeck.
Yet when you consider that he is only 21, what he’s achieved already is phenomenal. He was given the chance in the first team years before he otherwise would’ve done and has been learning on the job ever since. But when you compare what Rashford has achieved at this age with a whole host of world class strikers, he comes across fairly well. Eric Cantona, Alan Shearer and Harry Kane have nothing on him, for example.
What was interesting about Sunday’s game is that both teams started young strikers due to restrictions on their transfer business. Chelsea were banned and United are owned by the Glazers. Tammy Abraham was born a couple of weeks before Rashford and Chelsea supporters likely have a lot of faith in what he can become in the future. He has a great record in the Championship following his loan spells there and, at 21, has years ahead of him.
But Abraham only has five Premier League goals to his name, scored during his loan at Swansea, which pales in to comparison with Rashford.
He’s scored twice against City, Liverpool and Arsenal, three times against Chelsea, and once against Spurs. He scored an injury time penalty in Paris to complete one of United’s most impressive comebacks for years. Rashford doesn’t shirk from the big moments. That fearlessness that allowed him to grab that early opportunity with both hands is still there but now he has the added experience. It hasn’t all been plain sailing for him. He’s had periods where he hasn’t done well in the team, but he always bounces back, and that is admirable for someone so young, who could easily be crushed under the weight of expectation.
Against Chelsea, minutes in to the game, he took the responsibility of the penalty, when it would have been far easier to allow Paul Pogba to step up. But it’s not just his mentality that is impressive, but his ability too. His touch and finish for his second, United’s third, was exquisite. That’s the ability of a proper striker.
It’s obviously still early days, as we have to keep repeating whenever someone on social media accuses us of overreacting because we happened to enjoy watching our team win 4-0 on the opening day, but that start for Rashford could be key. His confidence is high, he has the backing of the manager, and the fans should be fully behind him.
There may well be blips ahead, that’s what you’d expect from any forward, let alone one so young, but it’s about time Rashford was shown the patience and respect he deserves. This could be a huge season for him and I genuinely hope it is. We need someone to score 20+ goals for us this season, it doesn’t matter who, but given a choice, I’d pick our Rashford.