Man Utd verdict: Red Devils show more freedom without Ronaldo but Ten Hag must replace him in January transfer window

A flash, a smash, a sparkling solo goal won’t change Erik ten Hag’s thinking – no matter how stunning.

Despite Marcus Rashford’s explosive clincher in Manchester United’s 2-0 EFL Cup win over Burnley, Ten Hag is forced to replace the downed Cristiano Ronaldo.

Marcus Rashford watches a perfect end to his glorious run - the ball whizzes into the far corner to complete United's 2-0 win

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Marcus Rashford watches a perfect end to his glorious run – the ball whizzes into the far corner to complete United’s 2-0 winPhoto credit: Rex
Benfica and Portugal's 6ft 1in forward Goncalo Ramos could be the answer for United, but only in the long term

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Benfica and Portugal’s 6ft 1in forward Goncalo Ramos could be the answer for United, but only in the long termPhoto credit: Getty

United’s freedom of expression on the counterattack will be hard to match if they trade that lively clash for a more serious life when the Premier League resumes at home to Nottingham Forest on December 27.

And the liberated look on Wednesday evening was certainly more due to the lower priority of this trophy than the departure of the icon Ronaldo.

It wasn’t until Rashford doubled the lead in the 51st minute that the Red Devils provided the focus they need to convert fifth place in the Prem into a Champions League spot.

United had given a promising enough lead at the break with a great team goal that was ended by a brilliant finish from Christian Eriksen.

But in those 45 minutes, Rashford, mostly on the right, and Anthony Martial, usually more central, never quite offered the combined impact to match the attacking elite Prem rivals.

Martial is more about magic moments than keeping the momentum going.

And before the break, Rashford had also been overshadowed for inventions by Bruno Fernandes, the Red Devils playmaker behind him.

Sooner or later United will need a presence, a figurehead, a quintessential goalscorer.

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You can’t expect even such a majestic Rashford – flushed with added confidence after his net – to suddenly transform completely from all-around attacker to captain in one season.

Probable January targets Joao Felix and Cody Gakpo would give Ten Hag more exciting right-to-left options across the front rather than a full response.

Portugal’s rising superstar Goncalo Ramos could do it – if he has the time.

But while he could be the new Ronaldo for his country, he’s unlikely to become United’s next legend, at least not any time soon.

Rashford has already stood up to be counted on the field. Now it’s up to Ten Hag to do the same in the transfer market and land the right man.

Erik ten Hag saw Rashford strike partner Anthony Martial put on a more enigmatic evening in an entertaining 2-0 win over Burnley

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Erik ten Hag saw Rashford strike partner Anthony Martial put on a more enigmatic evening in an entertaining 2-0 win over BurnleyPhoto credit: AFP
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https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6968251/man-utd-verdict-burnley-efl-cup/ Man Utd verdict: Red Devils show more freedom without Ronaldo but Ten Hag must replace him in January transfer window

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