It may have been 19th-placed Norwich City that Manchester United dismantled on Sunday afternoon but it was a good performance. Anthony Martial started his first Premier League game since August and his re-introduction to the side will reinvigorate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team.
The greatest beneficiary of Martial’s return will be Marcus Rashford. Against Norwich, the young striking pair showed their on-pitch connection. The third goal was one of supreme quality with a Rashford no-look backheel setting up Martial for a deft chip over the head of Tim Krul. It took the game away from the Canaries and secured a first away win in the league since March.
Rashford no longer isolated after Martial return
Far too often this season, Rashford has looked isolated and bereft of support. He’s been relied upon, at the age of 21, to drag United through difficult games. Martial takes some of that pressure off him and the burden is shared between the two and Dan James as well.
Rashford was shifted out to the left flank on Sunday afternoon. It provided a marked change in his level of performance. He had someone to play off in Martial who sits with his back to goal much of the time. Hence a second-half assist for Rashford. In fact, Rashford’s own goal in the first-half was a result of Martial’s presence. The Frenchman was the main focus for the Norwich defence and his position drew out a defender and left a gaping hole for Rashford to penetrate and finish in.
Martial-Rashford pairing is fearsome
In the positions they played in against Norwich, the pair are at their best. Many have questioned whether either is a centre-forward. Martial is. Rashford is not. But the latter has genuine quality as a left-winger. He drives at people fearlessly and it’s an exciting prospect. He’s quick, skilful and direct. His weaknesses as a striker are no longer so glaring when pushed out wide.
He’s got to continue in that position and that will be the key for United; whether Martial and Rashford can both stay fit. Had Martial been injury-free, this season would not have been completely different. But some games may have been won instead of drawn. There are obvious problems, but Martial’s return solves one of them which is United’s inability to create and score.
With Rashford having the chance to drive at people in space and Martial providing him with a central outlet, things should improve. Dan James is doing well on the right and Mason Greenwood can come in as well as Angel Gomes. United will still struggle against teams with a low defensive line but this is one step forward out of many.
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