After Sergio Romero came in at the last minute to perform heroics in the first leg of Man United’s tie against FC Midtjylland, it was left to another late replacement to claim the headlines at Old Trafford on Thursday night.
A teenager making his debut in front of an anxious Old Trafford crowd. In a must win game where an unfavourable result might well see the manager fired the next morning. And finding out with less than fifteen minutes’ notice. No pressure then…
18-year-old striker Marcus Rashford was drafted in to start at the last possible moment, so late in fact that the match had started before some noticed the change, for the injured Anthony Martial.
If Man United fans were worried – and they absolutely should have been when they went 1-0 down – their new teenage saviour was soon on hand to allay those fears.
His first goal put Man United 2-1 up on the night, levelling the tie on aggregate:
His second, Man United’s third, swung the tie in the home side’s favour – giving them the breathing space and confidence to build on that and go on to complete a comprehensive 5-1 rout (6-3 on agg.).
Naturally, Rashford was the talk of the footballing world after the match, especially given the speed at which the events unfolded.
Marcus Rashford’s night:
19.00 – Named on the bench
19.45 – Replaces Martial in the XI
21.23 – Goal
21.35 – Goal pic.twitter.com/zDU71kmdlz
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 25, 2016
Joining the chorus of applause was Rashford’s boss Louis van Gaal:
“In the first half he ran too much at the sidelines.
“I said to him at half-time to be in the width of the goal and you shall score. Then he scored two goals – it is fantastic for him.
“He was unbelievable.”
With the extent of Martial’s hamstring injury not yet known, and Wayne Rooney facing a longer spell on the sidelines, Rashford may be given another chance to impress against a much tougher opponent in Arsenal in the Premier League this weekend.
If a debut in these circumstances did not bother him, however, then Sunday could be like water off a duck’s back to the player.