PERHAPS the need to fill Cristiano Ronaldo’s goalscoring shoes isn’t quite as desperate as they all thought.
And if Gareth Southgate had given him more than five minutes against France, England’s World Cup might have been very different.
Surely anyone who witnessed Marcus Rashford’s magical display would have been in no hurry to disagree with either view.
Yes, fair enough, they’ll point out that it was “just” Burnley, that one swallow doesn’t make a summer – or winter – and all that.
But just as relevant is the old You can only beat what’s in front of your line. And Rashford didn’t just beat the Clarets, he beat them for their lives.
Tireless, grandiose and a bundle of energy without end. So much for pointing out that those returning from service in Qatar would need a few weeks to get back up to speed.
Rashford got going, accelerated throughout the evening and crowned his wonderful performance with what is arguably the most beautiful goal of his life.
Never mind that it was against a championship side, albeit one that threatens to run away with this league.
It was a really special, unforgettable moment of skill from a young man who has changed since Erik ten Hag arrived at Old Trafford. And then some.
United were already a good goal but far from within their comfort zone when the ball fell halfway down his own half to Rashford 12 minutes after the break.
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There was really nothing going on, no danger whatsoever. Probably more so for United than Burnley if he’s lost the ball at home.
So he set off. And on he went. And on and on and on. Jinking and weaving, the ball is never more than a few inches from his foot.
Burnley backed away, rocking on his heels, while running back Jordan Beyer didn’t know whether to stay or turn.
He ended up doing neither, as Rashford’s step-over left him looking as dazed as a drunk as he whittled down time before the striker fired into the bottom corner in a cool, clinical and classic manner.
For a split second, it seemed like silence fell over Old Trafford. It was such a wondrous piece of artistry that it certainly should have been.
Then the whole ground rose as one – heavens, there were even a few reluctant Burnley claps in there – to greet a goal as beautiful as this stadium has seen in years.
The ninth of an increasingly impressive season for the England striker and by far the best of them all.
Three Lions boss Southgate must have had some damn good strikers on hand if he could keep him on the bench until the final, frantic minutes of this quarter-final against France.
Or maybe he’s just a nice guy manager who never made a game-changing decision as national coach and only kept the job because there weren’t any viable alternatives. hmmm?
You can be pretty sure that even Southgate will find it difficult not to make Rashford a first name on his next England team list if he continues like this.
The first game PC – Post Cristiano – and the only time Ronaldo’s name was mentioned was the fact that Rashford scored a goal that even the magnificent six would have been proud of.
Winning a Champions League was a goal, let alone killing a Championship team.
Although for United fans, the fact that they are a side managed by Manchester City legend Vincent Kompany made it very special.
Even without Rashford’s sensational 70-yard solo, they probably would have secured a place in the last eight because they were already a good goal.
That was ensured by Christian Eriksen’s second goal for the club, with a start that also sounded like a Christmassy wonder.
The wonder in question was that the creator was Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who came up with one of the first decent crosses in his four seasons at Old Trafford.
Whether that will have much of an impact on salvaging his United career is both highly debatable and in doubt given that this was only the full-back’s second appearance this season.
It was only the seventh time Wan-Bissaka had even been included in the United squad. After all, he was able to celebrate the start with an assist.
What prep work it was too, deflecting Bruno Fernandes’ admittedly superior pass into the penalty area with a long volley, where Eriksen slammed into the net roof.
We even had some cheesy Christmas jokes in the form of deputy Martin Dubravka’s goalie comedy.
At first he nearly boxed the ball into his own net – after missing Manuel Benson’s cross completely – and needed Casemiro’s acrobatic exploits to get it clear.
And then he let a simple back pass from the Brazilian slip under his foot and had to run back to get it to safety.
It was about the only thing that would have taken a smile off United’s faces all night.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6967832/eriksen-rashford-man-utd-burnley-carabao-cup/ Man Utd 2 Burnley 0: Rashford seals Carabao Cup victory with incredible solo goal as he takes home World Cup form