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Marcus Rashford's strike against Spurs was a coming of age moment

Zaid Khan
ANALYST
Feature
1.11K   //    15 Jan 2019, 01:34 IST

Rashford's brilliant strike helped United overturn Spurs at Wembley.
Rashford's brilliant strike helped United overturn Spurs at Wembley.

As his perfectly placed strike grazed Hugo Lloris' gloves, there must've been a wave of vindication running through Marcus Rashford's mind.

On a night where a riveting undercurrent regarding future managerial appointments at Old Trafford loomed large, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer proved that he is as much about brass-tacks as he is of beaming and speaking all the correct stuff. Rashford, now entrusted, energized and exonerated from the cloud of obfuscation and incredulity cast on him by Jose Mourinho's bewildering treatment, experienced a watershed moment once the ball nestled into the bottom left corner of Tottenham Hostpur's goal. 

The boy from Wythenshawe has starred in crucial victories for Manchester United before - but that was when the weight of expectation on his shoulders was significantly lighter. From being a walk-on in United's play to becoming an indispensable cog - the 21-year-old's imperturbable guile while placing his shot was indicative of how much he's grown as a player and the dividends Solksjaer's efficacious methods have reaped. 

Solskjaer's appointment has breathed confidence in Rashford.
Solskjaer's appointment has breathed confidence in Rashford.

Rashford's career at United has followed a meteoric trajectory right from the day he made his debut for the club. A priceless brace on debut followed by another exquisite performance against Arsenal in the very next game ensured that once the gloss wears off and the blustering nature of the Premier League catches up with Rashford's boyish effervescence the eventual dip is going to be a tad more difficult to knock off - simply because of the nature of his fantastic start.

Although Rashford's career might seem embryonic, he has made 149 appearances for United since making his debut in the 2015-16 season, and at 21, he has won everything at Old Trafford, except the Premier League and the Champions League. Still, his expeditious advancement coupled with Romelu Lukaku's struggles owing to an unsupervised bulking routine hint at a potential opening - an opportunity which if he puts his foot on the gas and shows the maturity to grab it with both hands - could be the making of a potentially spectacular legacy. 

Bereft of confidence under Mourinho, one of Rashford's most pointed shortcomings was the lack of poise and the habit of over-complicating simple things. Given the talent he possesses, it was difficult, and in parts worrying, to watch the youngster stumble at what resembled relatively simple hurdles. From reeling with a sense of innocuity due to the absence of an attacking blueprint under Mourinho to now becoming considerably empowered under Solskjaer, there is a palpable swagger and considerable aplomb in how he has been moving with the ball.

With United's attack finally singing from the same hymn sheet, Rashford's efforts of stretching the play, making undaunted pacey runs from the flank and having the engine to keep pressing till stoppage time came around are testaments to how reinvigorated he has been feeling under the Norwegian's tutelage. 

Mentally, he approaches games with a lot more intrepidity than earlier in the season. His efforts on goal have become crisper and more purposeful, there's a willingness to have a pop at the goalkeeper in dead ball situations - in which Rashford tries to emulate Cristiano Ronaldo's famous knuckleball technique.  

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Cogitative decision-making, coupled with discerning execution (like the finish against Spurs) resonate the fact that Rashford has become more measured in his overall approach to the game. 

Be it the magnificent mauling of Nathan Ake in the build-up to Paul Pogba's opener against Bournemouth, the ability to let the ball roll in to his feet, protect it, recycle possession or flick it on to an onrushing teammate - Rashford is exuding attributes whose frequencies were previously few and far between for a while now.

Consistent implementation of such aspects of Rashford's game are hugely encouraging and are only going to strengthen his case in becoming United's first choice striker. There's a genuine sense of respect for Lukaku's unquenchable commitment, drive to improve and ability to find the back of the net at United even with the scraps he's had to make do with for most of his time at United.

And yet, you'd be kidding yourself if you believed that the Old Trafford faithful wouldn't want Rashford to dislodge him from the starting eleven in the long run. He's one of their own in every sense of the cliche and the allure of having a local lad smash Wayne Rooney's all-time goal-scoring record and become the top goalscorer in the club's history is way too enticing to contain.

Rashford looks like he's finally arrived with a decisive goal in a game which had huge ramifications for his team. The only question now is whether he has the temperament to metamorphose this red-hot streak into something much more consolidated. 

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Zaid Khan
ANALYST
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