Jose Mourinho surprised everybody with his team selection on Sunday, choosing to start with a strike partnership of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard in a 3-5-2 formation, but it worked as Manchester United won 2-0 against Chelsea.
This was the third time that the United manager had faced his former clubs this season and it would have been sweet for him to finally record a victory over them. It was a superb team performance from the Red Devils as they created the better chances while restricting the league leaders to only five shots.
At times this season, Mourinho has been criticised for being too predictable with his tactics, but that certainly wasn’t the case at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Although there were many that believed United were placing their focus on the Europa League tie with Anderlecht, Mourinho had a game-plan to play with two mobile forwards and the one taking the headlines will be Marcus Rashford.
It has been a frustrating season for the England international after breaking through in spectacular fashion last year, but this performance was a reminder of the quality that he possesses.
He worked hard, making intelligent runs to create space for himself and others in the team. His movement stood out as he caused lots of problems for the Chelsea defence, with the best example being his run in behind for the goal.
He managed to get in behind David Luiz, before taking a clever touch to move away from the Brazilian, providing him with space to slot past Asmir Begovic.
The 19-year-old showed incredible composure to make the space and find the back of the net, something that we haven’t seen enough of from him this season. He was easily the side’s most dangerous attacker as he attempted four of United’s nine shots.
During the second half, he almost scored a second that would have been like his first, as he got in on the right side of the centre-backs, but he fired into the side netting.
Rashford is excellent at carrying the ball and driving at defenders. His directness is one of the reasons why he has often been used as a winger by Mourinho this season. However, it is much more effective in central areas and that showed on Sunday.
He completed four dribbles during the match, which was more than any other player on the pitch. His renewed confidence was there for all to see and United supporters will be hoping that there is more to come over the run-in.
The one minor disappointment from his performance on Sunday was that he was dispossessed four times, which was more than any other player in red. That said, it shows that he was willing to take risks and try to make something happen for his team.
At times this season, United have been too predictable in the final third, but Rashford couldn’t be accused of that against Chelsea. His talent and willingness to take chances were a major reason for United’s important win over the league leaders.
This season has been a learning curve for Rashford, as he has had to bide his time and play in roles that aren’t suited to him, but this performance underlined that he is developing as a player under Jose Mourinho.
Despite his lack of history with youth development, the Manchester United manager showed his faith in the 19-year-old on Sunday and was repaid with an excellent performance.
He is now ready for a more permanent role in the starting eleven and it will be interesting to see if Mourinho continues to use him centrally ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
He could even opt to partner the two, which would be really exciting for United fans.
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