Monday 27 January 2020

Deadly duo getting in synch for United

Rashford and Martial in form can salvage season for Reds

Anthony Martial has made an impact since his return from injury
Anthony Martial has made an impact since his return from injury
Marcus Rashford is congratulated by team-mates after scoring at Stamford Bridge

"It's just like Sheringham and Solskjaer," exclaimed a happy Manchester United manager on Sunday when the Reds ran out 1-3 winners at Carrow Road.

The boss was talking about his twin strike force, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

"It was great to see them link up," he added. "We've missed Anthony in the last two months. His partnership with Marcus is just going to improve and grow."

The manager is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and if he's identifying a gilt-edged scoring partnership similar to the one between himself and Teddy Sheringham that snatched an improbable last gasp Champions League final victory over Bayern Munich in 1999, then Manchester United supporters will be anxious to believe him.


United's stuttering season was in danger of sinking in a Slough of Despond with players looking off the pace, lacking in motivation and demoralised.

Then came a spirited performance against league leaders Liverpool.

Anthony Martial got some playing time after being out injured since August.

That United halted Liverpool's winning streak one short of equalling Manchester City's record added to the sense of occasion. Then both Rashford and Martial scored against Norwich on Sunday leaving Solskjaer with a wide grin on his face.

But does his encouragement for his strikers have any basis in reality?

Solskjaer scored 91 Premier League goals for Manchester United which has him sixth in the club's table of top league scorers, one place ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo. Teddy Sheringham scored 31.

Already Marcus Rashford has scored 32 and Anthony Martial ranks joint 13th with 37 Premier League goals.

In Wednesday night's Carabao Cup match away to Chelsea, Rashford made light of two penalty misses this season by scoring from the spot in the first half.

When Chelsea drew level and piled on the pressure, Rashford confidently went for goal from a 30-yard free.

The ball flew over the wall and buried itself in the top corner beyond the keeper's grasp in a feat of aerodynamics that would have had Ronaldo displaying his six-pack in jubilation.

While Solskjaer is still attempting to patch a workable side together, he'll know that his strikers need to begin delivering immediately if United are to salvage anything from their season.

With just five points from their last five games, United need to create more chances, get shots on target and score more goals.

Nineteen when he came to Old Trafford from Monaco in 2015, Martial got off to a promising start but his form fluctuated under different managers.

Louis van Gaal often preferred Wayne Rooney or Rashford to lead the line.

Then Jose Mourinho made Zlatan Ibrahimovic the club's number nine before switching to Romelu Lukaku.

Under Solskjaer, Martial appears to have found his focus, saying recently: "At first I always loved to dribble the ball, perhaps too much even. Now, it's all about scoring goals for me.

"That's my number one aim. It has to be. These days I am very focused on my central striker role, getting my scoring stats up.

"We have one of the great finishers to learn from with Ole as our manager. What a finisher he was. To score, you have to be obsessed, to be fixated on just that, scoring goals."

According to Solskjaer, Rashford, who turned 22 on Thursday, "has got nerves of steel."

The England international shouldered the extra responsibility of being the target man when Martial was missing but Solskjaer should be qualified to help both his attackers develop in tandem in the months ahead.

Having been given a vote of confidence by his manager before the Chelsea match, Rashford kept his composure to score from the penalty spot and get the hoodoo off his back.

His dynamic play seems to have returned. Against Norwich it was a cheeky back heel from Rashford that set up a goal for Martial.

A combination of Rashford's power runs, ability to keep the ball and mazy skills should fit perfectly alongside Martial's role as primary finisher.

As Solskjaer says: "We're trying to improve that relationship more and more."

With the pace of Daniel James complementing Rashford and Martial and causing havoc for defenders, Solskjaer could yet be comparing his twin strikers to the club's Andy Cole (98 goals) and Dwight Yorke (48 goals) iconic partnership.

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