Man Utd: Solskjaer sweats on Rashford fitness for Granada tie
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The last Manchester United player to score six or more European goals in a single campaign was Henrikh Mkhitaryan. But Marcus Rashford has now overtaken that tally, nothing seven in both the Europa League and Champions League combined. The England international scored as Granada were beaten 2-0 in Spain, with Bruno Fernandes scoring another.
Manchester United went into their game against Granada looking to take a giant step towards the Europa League semi-finals.
And though it wasn’t pretty, the Red Devils got the job done – boosting their hopes of ending a four-year wait for silverware in the process.
Rashford opened the scoring United, with Fernandes then joining him on the scoresheet from the penalty spot.
The England international latched onto a looping ball from Victor Lindelof – whose execution was similar to Toni Kroos’ effort against Liverpool on Tuesday night, to keep his cool and beat Rui Silva with a composed finish – helping his side to a healthy first leg lead in the process.
And his goal was his seventh in European competitions this term, beating the six achieved by Mkhitaryan in the 2017/2018 campaign.
That year, the Armenia international was on song when it came to the tournament – notching six times including against Ajax in the final.
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Though he struggled in the Premier League under Jose Mourinho, his goals helped the Portuguese win the Europa League that very same year.
Mkhitaryan was a dud signing for the club. But, in the Europa League, he produced his best showings before eventually being offloaded to Arsenal.
And, now, Rashford is coming good in the same competition – though has already outshone his former team-mate when it comes to the Premier League.
Five of the England international’s European goals this season came in the Champions League, a competition the club exited far too soon for their own liking.
And, now, he’s scored two in the Europa League – against Granada and Real Sociedad respectively.
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In the Premier League, Rashford has bagged 10 goals and registered seven assists from 30 matches. More than Timo Werner, Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
So that brings him to 20 for the season, with many matches still left to play.
He was taken off with 25 minutes left to play, a Solskjaer move that was hailed by Robbie Savage, after limping several times throughout the game.
The Norwegian had warned fans he wouldn’t risk Rashford before the game, saying: “I don’t think he’ll be a 90-minute man.
“I don’t pick players when we know there’s a risk. Of course there’s always a risk when you step onto the pitch and play football.
“If the medical advice is there’s too much risk to play him, I will never ever play a player that we know about in advance, or if he’s going to make it worse and it’s a serious one.
“His back has recovered but he’s a tough one. He wants to play and give his all for Man United. It’s also the responsibility of the player to tell us as he did on Sunday and say no it’s too sore, I’ve got to come off.”
There were other positives for United on the night as well, despite the game requiring plenty of digging in.
A clean sheet for David De Gea on his return to the side, having recently been dislodged by Dean Henderson for the 2-1 victory over Brighton at Old Trafford, while a moody Fernandes smiled again after finding the net.
Paul Pogba looked sturdy being deployed in a central midfield role, as opposed to the wide role he’s been given by Solskjaer at times throughout the season, despite being given a yellow card early on.
And Scott McTominay was a good partner in crime, though will be missed in the second leg.
The Scotland international is becoming a vital asset under Solskjaer and likely explains the lack of Donny van de Beek, who continues to be overlooked.
It’s been a torrid first season at Old Trafford and the fact he was left unused until late on, in arguably their most-important match of the season with a trophy and Champions League football at stake, speaks volumes about his current status.
But one blow will be the absences of the key trio Maguire, Shaw and McTominay.
Overall, this wasn’t one for the highlights reel – even if Maguire tried to make it one with many shots from distance.
Yet United are on track to win a trophy and finish second in the Premier League table. For Solskjaer, that’ll be the biggest positive of all.
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