Marcus Rashford continues his resurrection as Manchester United sparkle against Arsenal

Old Trafford giants inflict first defeat of season on Gunners with debutant Antony getting his first goal

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A true hometown hero tale was in danger of having the most unhappy ending as Marcus Rashford’s own people turned against him last season.

A palpable lack of desire and effort on the pitch from Rashford was the final straw for Manchester United supporters, who had washed their hands of the once promising starlet, confining him to the long, long list of players not quite good enough for a club of their grandeur.

Yet, there has been a second coming, and it could not have been more perfectly timed. The decisive goal against Liverpool last month was followed by a crucial double against Arsenal to help his side triumph 3-1 on Sunday and make it four wins on the bounce. The fact it was against the team where it all began for a fresh-faced Rashford six years ago made it all the sweeter.

"It is always a big game against Arsenal, especially as they have had such a good start to the season," Rashford told Sky Sports.

"It was a big test for us today. We showed up and stood up to the challenge. We can be proud if ourselves. It is good to get into a rhythm.

"They are a good team and know their principles of play and are very good at it. It is what we expected. I thought it was an even game. There were big spaces in the first half we couldn't exploit. We managed to do that in the second half."

During both United and Arsenal’s halcyon days under Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger's respective reigns, clashes between the pair had the same pull as El Clasico around the globe, with the feuding giants more often than not putting on a sizzling show as both vied for the Premier League title.

Both have fallen well below the levels of that era, but Arsenal’s visit to Old Trafford was more eagerly anticipated than other recent encounters, given the Gunners had enjoyed a perfect start to the season but were facing their first real test, against a United team who at least had shown signs of turning the corner.

With chances coming for both sides early on, and VAR drama adding a further edge as Gabriel Martinelli’s goal was ruled out for an earlier foul, the spectacle did not disappoint right from the off.

It appeared that €100 million debutant Antony was the one who was going to grab the headlines after becoming the youngest Brazilian to score on his Premier League debut when breaking the deadlock in the first half, with his celebration seeming like it was never going to end.

Arsenal deservedly got back into the contest in the second half to sway the narrative once more, but it was Rashford who then took centre stage.

One of the many sticks supporters chose to beat Rashford with last term was his inability to put the ball in the back of the net when presented with chances at various pressure points in matches.

When bearing down on goal under Ralf Rangnick, you could see the confidence torn from Rashford’s demeanour, as even he was not convinced he had what it takes to finish the job off.

Having been moved out wide in the second half to accommodate the arrival of substitute Cristiano Ronaldo – a position Erik ten Hag sees him fulfilling in his best XI – Rashford came alive, darting on to a perfect Bruno Fernandes pass before making no mistake with the finish once more.

There was just no sign of the nervousness and general tentative play from last season, and he remained hungry for more, finishing off Christian Eriksen’s pull back to complete a fine afternoon’s work. Two chances, two goals and an assist for Antony’s opener to boot – lethal form that has been long overdue.

The pat from Ten Hag on Rashford’s head as he was substituted told you everything you needed to know about the relationship between player and coach. People deal with adversity in very different ways and Rashford is someone who needs that hand on the shoulder to tell him everything is OK.

Now he has a coach willing to do that, giving him the reassurance he needs to put in more performances like Sunday’s, offering hope that a full career resurrection is on the horizon. The hometown hero tale can still have that happy ending after all.

Updated: September 04, 2022, 6:20 PM
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