Oh to be from Wythenshawe and score the winner in the derby. United have got a centre forward. Marcus Rashford is the real deal. Forget the comparisons with Federico Macheda try a youthful Thomas Muller instead. Pace, courage, a willingness to run, forage, compete and harass; excellent touch; a finisher’s ice cold instincts; all topped off by a boy next door personality. Whatever else happens this season United have reason to celebrate a local hero.
Rashford’s superb goal keeps United in with a chance of overhauling City for that precious Champions’ League spot. City were dreadful. Admittedly if Kompany was playing Rashford and Co would have had a more competitive and bruising afternoon. Without their captain’s drive and energy City looked tired and lethargic. The word out of the Etihad is that the senior management believes the squad isn’t fit enough. On this performance they aren’t. United won the key battles, the second balls, and dealt with any threat from Aguero.
It was a win for Van Gaal and the team to savour on a day when the respected Spanish newspaper El Pais said an option deal is agreed for Mourinho to take over in the summer. The option is interesting and clever. El Pais says if United don’t agree formal terms with Mourinho by May 1st there’s a 5 million pounds walk away penalty. If they keep Mourinho hanging until June 1st and then opt out, the compensation rises to 15 million pounds.
Smart thinking, because if United’s kids continue to blossom the club’s transfer priorities may change. What happens to Rashford, Fosu-Mensah, Borthwick-Jackson and a few more if Mourinho arrives? A new coaching staff brings its own ideas. Everything starts all over again.
With eight league games left, and the FA Cup replay with West Ham to come, United’s season is poised. Losing to Liverpool in the Europa Cup was a huge setback on many levels, but beating City away and closing the gap between the teams to a point will light up the dressing room.
It’s a huge ask for Rashford, 18, and Martial, 20, to deliver the 4th League spot and perhaps the FA Cup but it’s not impossible. Today’s team had balance, and dynamism. Players are returning from injury. Rashford and Martial will get some help. Rooney and Shaw aren’t far away, Young is back in training, and there’s now the two week international break when a lot of the squad will get a well earned rest. Don’t be surprised if United report Smalling has an injury and has to pull out of the England squad. Let’s hope Martial has a dose of French flu too.