Goals and youth: Rashford embodies Solskjaer's restoration of United way

Marcus Rashford Manchester United 2018-19
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The striker made it five goals in six games since the Norwegian's arrival to earn the Old Trafford outfit a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Brighton

These are the same Manchester United players that Jose Mourinho had and they are playing approximately the same shape.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not gone to Old Trafford with a blank chequebook to sign his troubles away nor has he turned up with a secret dossier with all the tactical codes required to beat the Premier League.

These players are currently performing how Mourinho wishes they could have performed when he still had a job. But there was always a little of 'The beatings will continue until morale improves' attached to Mourinho’s methods.

We know that because these men looked miserable when he was on the sideline whereas now they look happy. They were not winning enough matches when he was coaching them and now they are winning every game they play.

This latest success, a 2-1 defeat of Brighton on Saturday, makes it six wins in a row in the Premier League for those keeping count – another piece of history Solskjaer – with one more in the FA Cup thrown in for good measure.

Conditions under Mourinho were fiercely humid and tense. It’s like there was a deluge at Old Trafford and the air cleared. Finally, we see what these guys are capable of.

No one is suggesting for one second that Solskjaer is a better manager than Mourinho. Their respective trophy hauls and renown within the game would nip that assertion in the bud straightaway.

However, this United team is not in need of managing right now; they are in need of guidance, belief and confidence. And Solskjaer is providing that in abundance.

Tougher days will come and the honeymoon won’t last forever. But this spell – 18 points from 18 – is exactly what this team needs to feel like Manchester United again.

Paul Pogba played well again and slotted in a penalty that he himself earned but no one player is currently benefitting more from the Solskjaer guidance than Marcus Rashford.

Marcus Rashford Manchester United 2018-19

This was his 150th Manchester United game and he scored his 41st goal. That’s not record-breaking by any stretch of the imagination but no United player has scored more for the club since he made his debut under Louis van Gaal.

He has also now scored in his last four Premier League games running and has five in his last six. He's in the form of his life.

Go back a little further and there was a goal and two assists against Fulham, when he was beginning to exert himself towards the dog days of Mourinho's reign. With eight goals in 20 league games this season, it's already Rashford's best ever in front of goal. 

Van Gaal loved him and put him on the path towards regular selection and consistency. What came after must have been frustrating for all who wish for Rashford to excel. He still got his games, and goals here and there, but there was a sense that Mourinho was never fully convinced.

He had to prove himself all over again when he shouldn't have had to. He’d already made the breakthrough and earned the right to be treated as a first-teamer and not a kid. Every time he missed a chance there was a fear that Mourinho would send his number up on the assistant referee’s board and call him ashore.

It was clear from the start of his career that Rashford would eventually be a No.9; up front, scoring goals and causing trouble. But it was easy to forget that under Mourinho, who played him left, right and anywhere else other than the centre-forward position as long as he could help it.

The first summer he arrived, he signed a 35-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic and played him till his legs gave in. The next summer, he signed Romelu Lukaku for £70 million. Last winter, Alexis Sanchez arrived as the best-paid player in the history of English football. 

How could a young striker be expected to make the grade if fully-formed strikers were being signed over his head at every opportunity? But Solskjaer is clearly a believer. Whatever 'it' may be, it is clear that Marcus Rashford has it in spades.

Solskjaer is one of those people who believes in the values of Manchester United, who understands what it takes to create a bond with the supporters at Old Trafford. It’s goals and it’s youth; local youth, if at all possible.

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And on the day when they marked the 25th anniversary of the death of Sir Matt Busby, it was left to another United babe to conjure the magic moment to put this game out of reach for Brighton.

Rashford has consigned Lukaku to the bench and has the full backing of his manager. That backing is allowing him to do things like he did just before half-time. Those dancing feet and that fine finish have always been in there and they have been unlocked in a big way.

Solskjaer arguably scored the biggest goal in the history of this club and so he understands what it takes to succeed. He’s not going to pour any magic formula into Rashford that’ll make him get better but he will provide the pep talks, the tips and the expertise to help him reach the top. He is well on his way.