Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford is in breathtaking form as Barcelona saw first hand in Europa League clash
It took Marcus Rashford just over an hour to reduce one of the best defensive lines in Europe’s top five leagues to shrunken rubble. Quite frankly, one could argue that this was not a bad performance for Barcelona considering how quickly he was wreaking havoc among other opponents in this heat, the hottest series of any player on the planet right now.
Since the end of the World Cup, Rashford now has 13 goals, more than any other player in the five European leagues, and in a competition teeming with attacking talent, there was no doubt that he shone his brightest in a 2-2 draw between ” Manchester United and Barça. . If you didn’t know otherwise, you would never have thought that a player with Rashford’s (and Rafinha’s, for that matter) talent could be hard at work in the early days of the Europa League playoffs.
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Rashford deserves a bigger stage and he seems to know it. Earlier in the gold run, much of the credit for the 25-year-old’s form went to Erik ten Hag for the reshuffling he did to put his striker in the right positions. Gone is Cristiano Ronaldo, the static node through which all attacks had to pass, while the arrival of the likes of Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez brought progress and precision to United’s game. Rashford was quick to pass balls to a defense that didn’t have time to fix the situation, he had options around him and a position that suited him. It was the perfect place to rediscover his rhythm.
On Thursday, however, some suspect that Rashford could have been instructed to sweep behind four defenders and still be the competition’s most disruptive force. King Midas of Manchester United turns the competition purely on willpower and exploits tactical inconsistencies.
In the end, Xavi made the adjustments needed to give his team the best chance of slowing down Rashford. Ronald Araujo was moved to the right flank instead of his usual role in central defence, on the assumption that star striker ten Haga would take his best position on United’s left flank. Instead, Rashford has shifted deep into the field, acting more like a runner paired with target player Vought Weghorst, whose dedicated centre-forward play provides such a stable platform for United’s other strikers to excel.
Heat map of Rashford at Camp Nou
From his center bunk, Rashford was able to check the space between the full-backs and their centre-backs, exploring the half-spaces and interacting with Jadon Sancho and Fred. Threats continued to come from the left flank, most notably a hissing cross-shot in the first half that forced Marc-André ter Stegen to parry skillfully.
Rookie Marcos Alonso against the flow of the game may have blown the air out of United, instead it was like injecting nitrous oxide into Rashford’s engine. Having received the ball from Fred just outside the penalty area, his first touch seemed too heavy to the untrained eye. Nothing like this. Alonso was left behind, but the corner was clearly too small for Ter Stegen to beat him. Instead, the ball thundered behind the German at his near post. It’s easy to use the familiar cliché that a goalkeeper should never be hit there, but Rashford hit the ball so fast that even the best in the world didn’t have time to react.
It was a hooligan ball filed by United. Rashford demanded possession of the ball and was successful in every stance for a time. Jules Kunde, who was lucky enough to avoid a red card and concede a penalty for a scrum with United’s No. 10, was only able to get the ball into his own net when Rashford took a short corner, beat his defender and sent the ball low into the net. box.
Rashford was undeniably a star player, but many others have boosted their reputation against Barcelona, who, apart from the recent flurry of pressure, looked far from being the Premier League’s third-best side.
“We dictated the game,” Ten Hag said.
He wasn’t wrong. Casemiro and Rafael Varane showed authority and Fred brought dynamism to the competition after a slow start.
Had United retained the 2-1 lead earned by their star striker, it would have been another famous night at the Camp Nou, not comparable to the 1999 frenzy but comparable to Rashford’s other great European match when he knocked out Pari Saint Germain. Germain from the Champions League four years ago. This is the stage he belongs in and United are well on their way to not only getting back into the continent’s biggest competition, but thriving when they get there.