One of the big reasons for signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic this summer was that the striker, who has recently turned 35 would be able to lighten the load on Manchester United’s younger players. The former Swedish international, who retired from duties with his country this summer after Euro 2016 has taken in spells at Paris Saint Germain, AC Milan, Barcelona and Inter Milan; he’s a proven winner with years of experience at the top level, and the notion was that United’s young attacking talent, namely Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial could learn a lot from him going forward.
Whilst Martial has struggled to replicate his form from last season, where he was easily United’s best outfield player all year long despite only joining the club in September, Rashford has, for the most part, continued his impressive displays after he burst onto the scene in March of this year. With four goals to his name already this season, it’s clear that he’s becoming a bigger part of life at United as time goes by, which, considering his status as a local player who has come through the club’s academy, makes it extra special. So much so that Mourinho is seemingly placing more and more importance on Rashford’s shoulders, as he had this to say on the cramp that forced him to be substituted against Liverpool on Monday night:
“We had a big chance where I thought Zlatan was going to score; if you score that goal, it’s 1-0, goodbye, finished. But I think we missed a little bit of sharpness through the middle. I was expecting more penetration and I was thinking about playing Rashford in the position behind Zlatan but he had cramp and I made a change. At that moment I thought it would be difficult to win now, so let’s not lose it.”
It’s interesting that when Rashford had to be withdrawn, and despite having Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard on the bench, Mourinho didn’t feel like he had the available tools to win Monday’s game. In truth, Rashford didn’t offer his greatest display against Liverpool, but neither did several of his more high-profile colleagues, and it’s telling that his manager only felt the game was out of reach when his soon-to-be 19-year old forward was out of the equation. Here’s hoping that more trust can be placed on his shoulders in the coming months, and we get to see even more of what Rashford is capable of.