Marcus Rashford, a teenage product of Manchester United’s academy, enjoyed a dream debut by scoring twice in a 5-1 victory over Denmark’s FC Midtjylland at Old Trafford on Thursday that took the Premier League side into the last 16 of the Europa League.
The 18-year-old was only thrust into the starting side when Anthony Martial was injured during the warm-up.
But he showed no nerves when he struck in the 64th minute, with a clinical, low strike from eight yards after Juan Mata had pulled an Ander Herrera far-post cross back across the area from the left-hand by-line, to put United 2-1 in front on the evening.
That matched the same scoreline by which Louis van Gaal’s side had lost the first leg in Denmark last week and, after 75 minutes, Rashford’s second goal of the evening gave United a 4-3 aggregate advantage.
Again, the young forward showed great composure, following nice footwork and a cross from full-back Guillermo Varela which Rashford met at full speed and drove the ball home.
Victory meant United had won two out of their three fixtures in different competitions this week, with Shrewsbury beaten in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday and Premier League title-chasers Arsenal coming to Old Trafford on Sunday.
But Midtjylland threatened to heap more misery on already under-pressure United manager van Gaal when a goal from Danish international Pione Sisto put the visitors 3-1 ahead on aggregate after 27 minutes.
A pacy counter-attack ended with the 21-year-old skipping past weak challenges from Daley Blind, Michael Carrick and Joe Riley before slotting the ball home.
United’s response was swift with a cross from the impressive Memphis Depay causing panic in the Danish defence and ending with Nikolay Bodurov slicing his cross into the roof of his own goal.
The hosts should have taken a lead into the half-time interval after Herrera was tripped three minutes before the break by Andre Romer but goalkeeper Mikkel Andersen dived low to his right to make an excellent stop from Juan Mata’s penalty kick.
To injury-hit United’s credit, the response was swift with Morgan Schneiderlin picking out Depay whose shot was straight at Andersen, the keeper being beaten a minute later by his own player.
The pattern of the game might have shifted further, following the penalty miss, had the referee spotted a blatant elbow, off the ball, by Rilwan Hassan on Depay although the Midtjylland winger escaped censure.
Even after United had scored their second goal, the visitors failed to contend with Depay who won the ball back twice in the same United attack before seeing a curling shot blocked from six yards and, as the hosts pressed, Jesse Lingard was booked for diving following a challenge from Kristoffer Olsson and a loud penalty appeal.
A single goal was all the Danish side needed to win the tie on away goals but, apart from a wide header from substitute Paul Onuachu, they rarely threatened in the second half.
The tie was finally settled for the concerned home supporters in the 88th minute when Herrera made no mistake, drilling the ball home emphatically after Hansen had handled from Depay in the area.
The Danish champions ended a miserable night when Romer collected a second yellow card, leaving the visitors with 10 men for the closing seconds in which Depay cut inside and rattled an unstoppable shot in from the edge of the area.
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