Marcus Rashford has been labelled a national treasure for his free school meals campaign but it’s not just off the pitch that he is making an impact. His hat-trick against RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Wednesday underlined his increasing importance on it.
The Manchester United striker had sealed a standout 2-1 win away to Paris Saint-Germain last time out in Europe and stepped off the bench to thump RB Leipzig with an 18-minute hat-trick at Old Trafford to take his tally to eight goals in 11 appearances for club and country this season.
“Marcus has shown he can keep focusing on what’s important on and off the pitch at the moment,” said Solskjaer after his latest headline-grabbing exploits on the pitch.
Rashford’s form is ominous for Arsenal supporters. He made his name with two goals against the Gunners on his Premier League debut but, at 22 years old, he has now developed into United’s go-to man for the big occasions.
Ahead of this weekend’s Super Sunday edition of the iconic rivalry, we look at Rashford’s improvement…
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Rashford’s big-game scoring touch
Since the start of last season, Rashford has scored nine goals in all competitions against the Premier League’s big-six sides. No player has scored more in that timeframe and the feat is even more impressive given that Rashford has reached that total in just 12 appearances.
Southampton’s Danny Ings, the only other Premier League player to have scored nine goals against big-six sides since the start of last season, needed 16 appearances to do it, while Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, next on the list with eight, needed 14.
Many of Rashford’s strikes against big-six sides have proved vital.
His double against Chelsea on the opening day of last season helped United on their way to a 4-0 win at Old Trafford. When the two sides met again in the Carabao Cup at Stamford Bridge last October, he scored both goals – including a stunning free kick – in a 2-1 win.
He repeated that trick in a 2-1 win over Tottenham in the Premier League last December, scoring either side of a Dele Alli equaliser to give United three points at Old Trafford. A few days after that he hit another decisive goal as United side beat Manchester City by the same scoreline.
Rashford was also the only Manchester United player to find the net against Liverpool last season, his goal in their October meeting at Old Trafford ensuring they held the side who ended up running away with the Premier League title to a draw.
Rashford has delivered in the Champions League too, of course. That hat-trick against Leipzig and his heroics in Paris aren’t rarities. His stunning winner against PSG last week brought back memories of his decisive penalty against the same opposition in March 2019.
He scored decisive goals in the Champions League against Benfica and CSKA Moscow in the season before that, and he was also instrumental in United’s run to Europa League glory in the 2016/17 campaign, scoring in the quarter-finals against Anderlecht and the semis against Celta Vigo.
It all started against Arsenal
Rashford will be eager to add to his tally when United face Arsenal live on Sky Sports on Sunday afternoon.
The two sides sit in the bottom half of the Premier League table following poor starts to their domestic campaigns, meaning the pressure is on to avoid slipping off the pace any further.
The meeting with the Gunners is also a reminder of how it all began for Rashford.
It was against Arsenal, of course, that Rashford, still a teenager at the time, made his Premier League debut under Louis van Gaal in February 2016, scoring twice in a memorable 3-2 win at Old Trafford and becoming a household name in the process.
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Rashford’s knack for the big occasions was apparent again a month later, when he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, and he delivered again on United’s route to winning the FA Cup that season, hitting what turned out to be a decisive goal in a 2-1 win over West Ham in the quarter-finals.
It is trait Rashford has carried with him from the start, in other words, but his scoring exploits since the start of last season suggest it’s a part of his game which his getting even better.
Rashford, already showing maturity beyond his years off the pitch, is doing the same thing on it.
Manchester United’s big-game specialist has already had a week to remember with his treble at Old Trafford against RB Leipzig. Can he make it even better at the same venue on Sunday when Arsenal come to town?
Watch Manchester United vs Arsenal on Sky Sports Premier League HD from 4pm on Sunday; Kick-off 4.30pm
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