- Manchester United can show they can cope without Marcus Rashford
- Rashford picked up the injury during United’s win against Everton on Saturday
- Erik ten Hag believes United have other options that can provide goals
In the current season, the question was asked frequently. Where would Manchester United be without Marcus Rashford?
Worryingly for Erik ten Hag, they may find out.
When Rashford left the stage in a rather flamboyant 81st minute, grimacing as he reached for his groin, a cloud appeared on a bright spring day at Old Trafford.
A well-deserved win over Everton in a brilliant performance. The return of Christian Eriksen. The first goal of Anthony Martial’s recent comeback and the confidence that Casemiro is available again after a four-game ban.
The sight of Rashford heading straight down the tunnel was enough to dampen Ten Hag’s spirits and make him question the fixture schedule, which saw United continue on Sunday and first up on Saturday, with a midweek game against Brentford sandwiched in between. was:
The schedule won’t get any better between now and the end of the season, which could hit the 65-game mark, and Rashford certainly won’t be the last United player to falter.
The striker will be re-assessed by United’s medical staff on Monday and Ten Hag will have to hope it is a false alarm. He used the word “pray” on Saturday, and it wasn’t very dramatic.
A day earlier, the United manager was sitting in Carrington discussing the need for Rashford’s team-mates to share the goalscoring burden.
“We have opportunities,” Ten Haag said. “Jadon Sancho can score, Bruno Fernandes can score, Marcel Sabitzer can score, and Antony. The good thing is that Anthony Martial is getting fitter and he can definitely score goals.
It sounds good. But here is the reality this season. Sancho – 5 goals, Fernandez – 10, Sabitzer – one, Antoni and Martial – 7 goals each. A total of 30, just two more than Rashford’s career best of 28.
Even when he didn’t score on Saturday, he scored the second against Martial after Scott McTominay converted one of many chances United created in a one-sided first half. No United player has played more games than Rashford.
United have adapted to losing key players this season, but his boots could be a little harder to fill if he is out for any significant time.
While he waits for news, Ten Heg can reflect on a hugely promising, if strangely tame, performance against Everton. Fernandes showed from deep in midfield as United had 21 shots on target against Everton in the first half, their most since the 2003-04 campaign. Saves from Jordan Pickford prevented the upset.
At the back, United were watertight except for one excellent chance missed by Alice Sims, who dragged the ball wide.
Harry Maguire came in alongside partner Lisandro Martinez and showed why there will be plenty of clubs willing to bid for a regular starting spot if he decides opportunities at Old Trafford are too limited in the summer.
United have won their last 10 games with Maguire starting.
‘I’m not going to stand here and say I love it or that I like it. “I don’t,” said the United captain. “I want to play every game and I have been doing that for the last eight years.
‘But it’s not like I’m frozen or not involved. I still play a lot of games.
“Every time I’ve been given an opportunity this year for the club, as well as for England at the World Cup and in the qualifiers, I’ve felt I’ve vindicated myself.”
While Rashford’s injury dampened United’s upbeat mood, Everton also had their four-game unbeaten run snapped which included late draws against Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.
The only goal difference is keeping Sean Dyke’s side out of the relegation zone.
“We just never got into the game,” quarterback James Tarkowski admitted. “Jordan was fantastic but the second goal killed the game and the atmosphere died. We still have eight games to go and there are still a lot of points to play for. It’s just a reminder of the levels we have to reach.”
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