REVEALED: An indoor kickabout with his mates set Marcus Rashford back on the goal trail, as Manchester United forward nets twice in a week to ignite his season after worrying slump
Redemption for Marcus Rashford began not with his goal at Brentford in midweek or the thrilling stoppage-time winner against West Ham here that sent Old Trafford into rapture.
In the difficult days following Manchester United’s last home game — the FA Cup win over Aston Villa which ended with the same 1-0 result, but a very different outcome for Rashford — he sought to rediscover his love of football.
That night against Villa, Rashford had looked like a lost soul after he was substituted to a smattering of boos loud enough to cut the Manchester-born player to the core.
Marcus Rashford is looking back to his best after scoring two goals for United this week
Rashford’s injury-time goal ensured United took all three points at Old Trafford vs West Ham
His next game wasn’t for United but an indoor kickabout with his mates down the road from Old Trafford, where they have played since he was a kid growing up in Wythenshawe.
For Rashford, it was a case of getting back to basics and remembering what took him to United in the first place.
Anyone who has witnessed the 24-year-old’s worrying loss of form and despondent moods this season could tell he wasn’t enjoying his football. This was Rashford’s way of pressing the reset button.
It paid off, too. Interim manager Ralf Rangnick may have been playing teenager Anthony Elanga in Rashford’s position wide on the left, but the England man has come off the bench in the last two games to score twice in the space of four days.
If the well-taken goal at Brentford merely confirmed United’s 3-1 victory, his close-range effort in the final minute of added time on Saturday was decisive in nudging United ahead of West Ham in the race for the top four.
The England man grabbed an injury time winner to take United up to fourth in the league
The wild celebrations that followed said everything about the significance of this victory and the way it was won. Rashford’s beaming smile at the end showed what it meant to him.
‘Fergieee timeeeee,’ he tweeted afterwards, and Rashford should know. It was the fourth 90th-minute winner of his career, more than any player in Premier League history.
‘Winning games like that is the best feeling in football. It was basically the last kick of the game,’ he said. ‘We’ve been involved in so many great moments at Old Trafford when the team score late to win the game. It’s obviously good for your confidence, but the biggest thing for that is winning games.’
Four of Rashford’s five goals this season have come off the bench, so the next challenge is to win back his place and remove any temptation for Rangnick to continue using him as an impact player.
Rashford claimed ‘winning games like that is the best feeling in football’ after West Ham win
‘We have a lot of wingers and outstanding players in that position, and Marcus is one of them,’ said the United boss. ‘Right now, yes, he scored twice in two consecutive games when he came from the bench but, of course, his ambition is to play regularly from the start.
‘This is the best way back into the team, and to play from the beginning.’
Again, Rangnick deserves credit for his substitutions. After incurring the wrath of Cristiano Ronaldo at Brentford, he left United’s No 7 on the pitch this time and added more firepower in Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial. All four players were involved in the dramatic late winner.
It was one of the highlights of the season at Old Trafford. The opening wins over Leeds and Newcastle, and Ronaldo’s late goals against Villarreal and Atalanta are others that spring to mind. This time, United need to build on it when they return from the winter break.
Rashford is looking to kick into gear this season, having only scored four goals thus far
For West Ham, defeat will sting for the next couple of weeks. Declan Rice, impressive on a stage that could be his permanent home one day, called the late goal ‘devastating’.
David Moyes was furious that his team dropped their guard at a crucial moment after limiting United to two shots on target until then.
‘I’m p****d off with that result, that’s for sure,’ said the Hammers boss, and you could feel his pain.