Marcus Rashford was singled out as one of the most dangerous players in Europe by Xavi, the manager of the Spanish powerhouses Barcelona, prior to Thursday night’s European classic between Barcelona and Manchester United.
By the time the final whistle sounded on a tense 2-2 draw in the first leg of the Europa League play-off, everyone in the Nou Camp would vouch that it wasn’t hyperbole.
In a devastating second-half performance, Rashford scored one goal and contributed significantly to another, putting him on track to have his best season in football history.
With plenty of games remaining, the England forward’s goal against Barcelona brought his season tally of 22 goals in all competitions to an all-time high.
On BT Sport, former Manchester United player Paul Scholes stated, “He is practically unplayable right now.
“Nobody can control him. He really seems unplayable no matter where he is playing—left, right, or down the middle.”
He’s on fire’ – Rashford primed for most prolific season yet, according to BBC Radio’s live coverage of the game, former England goalkeeper Rob Green added: “Rashford is currently blazing.
He was most likely the deciding factor between the two teams.
Players from Manchester United celebrate their second goal against Barcelona.
At one point, Manchester United overcame a goal deficit to lead 2-1 before former Leeds striker Raphinha equalized for Barcelona.
In particular, Rashford’s performance since the World Cup has been outstanding.
The 25-year-goal old’s against Barcelona, a deft near-post finish, was his fourth in five Europa League games. He has scored 14 goals in his previous 16 outings.
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted, “Marcus Rashford is on smoke.” “He hasn’t been at this level before, and he hasn’t been able to maintain this degree of consistency before.
“Rashford is not to be trifled with when he is fit, focused, direct, confident, deadly, and potent.”
At home, viewers of Rashford’s performance shared the same enthusiasm for his performance.
“Rashford has been transformed into a monster by Ten Hag, wrote Michael on Twitter. Kaden concurred, writing: “Bold claim, but I’m making it: Rashford is the finest striker in the world.
“He struggled for a few years at United, but this year he has found his groove. Scored almost every time, whether it was in a Thursday night game at Camp Nou or a Sunday afternoon game at a chilly Elland Road.”
Thursday night demonstrated how much more to Rashford than just scoring.
He was instrumental in Manchester United’s second goal, cutting inside a defender from a short corner and firing a shot across goal that Jules Kounde deflected into the goal.
Kounde was fortunate not to receive a red card when he tripped Rashford as the forward raced onto a long ball toward goal. Rashford’s pace frequently gave the Barcelona defense problems.
Was Kounde’s dismissal proper?
With the home leg of the match coming up next Thursday, United manager Erik ten Hag believes that particular moment had a significant impact on the game’s fate.
He told BT Sport, “I think it was a blatant foul on Rashy (Rashford). “Discuss if something fits inside or outside the box. It is a red card if it is (outside).
“It has a significant impact on this round as well as this game. Such an error cannot be made by a referee.”
Rashford concurred that United ought to have at least received a free kick.
“I haven’t reviewed it, but I don’t know why the linesman or the referee think I’m going down there,” you might say. Added he.
“My foot is in front of the ball, I’ve touched it past him, and he kicks my leg. It was definitely in touch and was a foul.”
A timeless classic?
Madrid United and Barcelona
Barcelona and Manchester United were facing one other for the first time since 2019 yet Ten Hag believed the match was deserving of appearing on the biggest platforms in European football, despite his anger at the choice (his outburst in the dugout cost him a yellow card).
The game burst in the second half after a fast-paced and open first half in which both teams had chances. Former Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso gave Barcelona the lead but Rashford quickly drew level.
Kounde’s own goal made it 2-1, but Raphinha’s equalizer prevented United from securing their first victory over Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
Ten Hag continued, “I think it was a Champions League game, much more than that. I really enjoyed the game.”
“It must be completed in Old Trafford. I can assume that if the game is like this, everyone will want to watch it.”
Green, a former West Ham and Chelsea goalie, continued: “This was the perfect opportunity for Uefa to promote the Europa League play-off matches. It was a battle between two enormous squads and had everything.”
As the first team to deny Barcelona a victory in their previous nine games, United undoubtedly gave the La Liga leaders a worry.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down as manager in 2013, the Old Trafford team has seen several false dawns and trying years, but former midfielder Owen Hargreaves feels Thursday’s performance proves they are headed in the right path.
He added on BT Sport, “If anyone was asking if Manchester United are the real deal or not – that just demonstrates.”
“They arrived and competed head-to-head with Barcelona. They had a good chance of winning the game.”