Marcus Rashford produced a dead-ball masterclass to remind of his quality in Manchester United’s Carabao cup fourth round win at Chelsea. 

After a difficult spell with injuries and loss of form; the Red Devils have built on their good result against Liverpool.

Losing Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba to injury greatly affected United’s light squad which endured six winless games.

United lacked creativity and Zest in attacking areas without Pogba and Martial as Rashford struggled to lead the line alone.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, however, welcomed back Martial and Wan-Bissaka to help the side oversee Liverpool’s first dropped points of the season.

A first away win since March followed in the Europa league before they finally scored more than once for the second time this season at Norwich; albeit missing two penalties at Norfolk.

The trip to Stamford Bridge in the Carabao Cup provided the daunting prospect of facing the wrath of opponents who flattered United in a 4-nil defeat on matchday one and have got much stronger since.

Solskjaer stuck with the same system that earned that respectable draw against Liverpool and stifled the Blues. Although Rashford’s two goals came from set pieces, Martial’s return means a return to his favoured role just off the main man in attack.

Marcus Rashford has four goals from his last three starts. (Getty Images)

The 22-year-old did not only provide the game’s winning moment with a Ronaldo-esque peach of a 35-yard free kick. He was a vital cog in attack, creating two chances and completing two dribbles alongside his two shots on target.

Rashford gets a lot of stick for being too Rash in his attacking play but his workrate will be of great benefit to Martial. Seeing one of those knuckle-ball free kicks finally go in would do his confidence a world of good as Rashford’s instinctive style requires confidence to really come off.

Solskjaer’s counter attacking style – emphatically evidenced by 35% ball possession against Chelsea– allows Rashford to find space to stretch teams on the break.

However, the problem lies where teams sit deep and allow them have the ball. 

Eight of the Red Devils’ 13 points this season were secured against fellow top six rivals who dominated the ball; Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool and Arsenal.
United are very tough to watch when given the ball and denied space on the counter; shorn of creativity and options in the squad, they lack any bite many a time.

However, Ole would be elated by progress at the other end of the pitch.

Scott McTominay has been United’s player of the season so far. (John Sibley/ Action Images via reuters)
Behind much of their decent rearguard action is Scott McTominay who has come on leaps and bounds this season.

The Scotland international registered 81% pass accuracy, five interceptions, five tackles, four fouls won and three long balls to start quick counter attacks against Chelsea.

United fans would be grateful to José Mourinho for bringing through the academy graduate who has been pivotal in screening a defence that has conceded only 10 goals in 10 games. The fifth best in that regard behind Liverpool, City, Leicester and Sheffield United in the Premier League.

New signings Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire have contributed to a meaner defence, with the full back registering the third most tackles in the league (43). 

Manchester United defenders keeping tabs on Michy Batshuayi. (Chelsea FC Via Getty Images)
The new three-man defence also combines the best qualities of grit, technical ability, aerial prowess and leadership in Marcos Rojo, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelöf. 

United’s top four fight might well be undermined by a lack of firepower but they look set to upset the progress of fellow top six candidates. 
To kick on and make the most of this decent patch of form, Solskjaer has to manage his thin squad to maintain a fear factor domestically whilst aiming for the cup competitions.

Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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