“The man who killed us last year was Marcus Rashford,” he said. “He took us completely by surprise.”
There was to be no surprise here on an afternoon that ended in despair when the 19-year-old played no small role in Arsenal’s late leveller.
This was seen as Rashford’s big chance. With Wayne Rooney on the bench after the international break, injured of knee and red of face, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic banned, Rashford got his chance to start in the middle. But he failed to shine.
Isolated against an Arsenal back four, Rashford found space hard to come by.
Shortly before the break, he fired past a tired-looking Alexis Sanchez but Rashford was brought crashing when Francis Coquelin intervened.
It took until the 50th minute for his first sight at goal but the touch-tight marking continued, his shot blocked by Shkodran Mustafi.
Seconds later the Stretford End’s appeals for a handball switched to chants of “Rooney, Rooney” as the England man warmed up, avoiding energy drink bottles on the touchline.
Rooney was on in place of a still out-of-form Anthony Martial. Rashford was shifted out to the left. Experiment over.
“If Rooney scores, we’re on the pitch,’ they sang. He didn’t, Juan Mata did.
With Arsenal pressing for an equaliser, suddenly there was space. After picking up a poor clearance, Rashford decided to go alone with Rooney well-placed and ended up on the deck, again courtesy of Coquelin.
This time Jose Mourinho went airborne, with an almost cartoonish jump up and down on the spot. The message was clear â€” Rashford must do better.
Worse was to follow. With time running out, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain raced past Rashford. His cross was pinpoint, Olivier Giroud’s header emphatic.
While the marking in the box will be questioned, the goal could have been killed at source. Rashford is young. He will learn from experiences like this and is no doubt a talented player.
His manager said as much afterwards. “It is normal,’ a relaxed Mourinho said. “He is a young kid that I put at the last minute on the left side because he has the pace to deal with the pressure.’
While it may not feel like it, this may have done the young man no long-term harm. But when it comes to his chances of making the centre forward spot his own, however, that is a different matter.
Original source: Rashford fails his central casting audition