Saturday 16 December 2017

Debutant Rashford is United's hero

Manchester United 5 Midtjylland1 (6-3 win on agg)

Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring the second goal for Manchester United. Photo: Russell Cheyne/ Reuters.
Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring the second goal for Manchester United. Photo: Russell Cheyne/ Reuters.
Manchester United's Memphis Depay in action against Midtjylland's Tim Sparv. Photo: Russell Cheyne/Reuters
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal walks off after the game. Photo: Russell Cheyne/ Reuters.
Ander Herrera celebrates scoring the fourth goal for Manchester United from the penalty spot. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Marcus Rashford was the unlikely hero in Manchester United's do-or-die clash with FC Midtjylland, marking an unexpected debut with a dream brace that saw Louis van Gaal's men through a tricky Europa League tie.

A terrible string of injuries has seen United forced to rely on youth products, although the 18-year-old striker was so far down the pecking order his name did not even appear on the back of the matchday programme.

Rashford is likely to be the cover star next time, though, having been thrust into the spotlight following Anthony Martial's warm-up injury and netting twice as United overcame a first-leg defeat and first-half Midtjylland goal to win 5-1 on the night.

It was a dream end to an evening that looked to be going horribly wrong when Pione Sisto all-too-easily carved open United's makeshift defence to put the Danish champions ahead at Old Trafford.

Nikolay Bodurov, on loan from Fulham, turned a Memphis Depay cross into his own goal shortly afterwards, but nerves grew as Morgan Schneiderlin hit the woodwork and then Juan Mata saw a penalty saved. They need not have worried, though, as Rashford came to the rescue, turning home crosses from Mata and Guillermo Varela to put United in the driving seat.

Ander Herrera's penalty and a Depay strike either side of Andre Romer red card added extra gloss to the scoreline as they progressed to the last 16.

The result eases the pressure on Van Gaal, who called for his team to be hungry and, rather amusingly, "horny" in the build-up to a match which ended a run of four games on the road.

Martial's warm-up blow took the number of injured first-team players to 13 and led to Rashford making his debut alongside 19-year-old Joe Riley, who made his first start in defence.

United boss van Gaal praised Rashford after saying: "In the first half he ran to much but at half-time we said be the width of the goal and you shall score. He scored two goals and it's fantastic for him."

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