Manchester United’s starting-lineup against Everton held a radical change. Romelu Lukaku was benched, and Marcus Rashford was given the central spot with which he had won Old Trafford’s hearts as a teenager, and not the wider role Jose Mourinho has been content deploying him at.
While it was the heroics of Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba that won the day, as the duo were involved in both of United’s goals, the role of Rashford wasn’t ignored either.
While he didn’t find the back of the net and squandered quite a few half-decent chances, it was his sheer presence and the catalyzing effect it held that caught the eye of supporters.
Twitter was riddled with the Red Devils’ fans heaping praise upon Rashford and comparing his showing with that of Lukaku, who has now gone nine games bereft of a goal.
Rashford missed an easy 1v1 and was offside on several occasions. But he has been amazing with his runs and movements. Refreshing to see United forward making runs in behind. Lukaku with all his pace doesn’t provide that. #MUNEVE
— Pratik (@praetikkk) October 28, 2018
Really noticeable today how many times Rashford makes a move before a pass is played. Lukaku only seems to do it afterwards. The difference.
— Si Lloyd (@SmnLlyd5) October 28, 2018
Rashford didn’t score or play that well, but just having him there, prepared to stretch the play and run in behind, makes United a better, more dangerous team. They got worse when he went off and Lukaku came on.
— Daniel Harris (@DanielHarris) October 28, 2018
Moving forward, I'd be inclined to rotate Rashford and Alexis up front. Man Utd looked so much better with a mobile centre forward. Lukaku needs that sense of competition. Do NOT drop Martial for either.
— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) October 29, 2018
Seems very much a Saha/Van Nistelrooy dilemma for Mourinho (albeit a much lower standard). Lukaku the better finisher (some may argue, to be fair) but having Rashford through the middle much better for the team in terms of fluidity and excitement
— Wayne Barton (@WayneSBarton) October 28, 2018
— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) October 28, 2018
The basic point that stood out was that Rashford’s runs, even before a pass had been played, often stretched Everton’s defense, creating quite a few problems for the opposition.
In contrast, Lukaku almost always waits for a pass to be played before acting upon it, an oft-remarked criticism of his erstwhile strong role as a clinical no.9. This was evident when he was eventually subbed on, and the game all of a sudden seemed to have lost its spark.
Further, what fans also took a keen interest in was the difference that the Belgian’s presence made to the playing styles of Pogba and Martial.
Rashford’s antics gave heaps of freedom to those around him, and on many occasions during the game, the spaces his runs created could have very well ended up in goals in a slightly more organized set-up.
All in all, while his showing didn’t have that many highlights to herald, one shouldn’t be surprised if the Englishman retains his spot against Bournemouth.
Further, one can’t help but think how United’s offensive line would have differed had it been Lingard who was fit enough to replace Mata. In the trio of Lingard, Rashford, and Martial, United may just have their go-to setup for quite a few more years.