Marcus Rashford gave a reminder of his quality, scoring twice as Manchester United outclassed an inexperienced Los Angeles Galaxy 5-2 in their first pre-season match.
Romelu Lukaku is the United striker attracting more attention since signing from Everton, but it was the 19-year-old Mancunian, wearing No 19 who took only two minutes to score the first goal of his club’s eight pre-season games.
Rashford - or ‘Rashy’ as he’s known around the club – finished confidently after Jesse Lingard had won possession back. He has worked hard in the close season and has visibly bulked up without losing any of his rapid acceleration. Teammates say he’s been sharp in training, stronger when challenged in possession, yet quicker in releasing the ball.
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“It’s just natural evolution of a kid,” said Jose Mourinho after the game. “An accumulation of minutes on a pitch. You change your body when you’re a young kid. He’s already three centimetres taller than when I arrived 13 months ago.
"He’s put some muscle on, but without any kind of specific work. His speed is his most important quality and today he was in a different team than Lukaku. We will try both in the same team which I think can also work.”
That speed was evident as Rashford ran onto balls played forward from an unconventional formation as Mourinho’s side played three at the back.
Rashford’s popularity with the 25,667 crowd comprised overwhelmingly of United fans paying upwards of $90 (Dh330) a ticket was also evident when he went to take a corner and fans screamed his name.
Rashford scored his second after 21 minutes, again benefitting from an interception. Ander Herrera passed forward to Juan Mata to set up the young forward who again placed his shot along the ground into the corner. He should have scored a third in the 43rd minute when he only had goalkeeper Jon Kempin to beat, but took one touch too many.
“Marcus was outstanding and took his goals really well,” said former United defender David May after commentating on the match. “He should have scored a hat-trick and I asked him about his missed chance. He said he was going to take the ball around the keeper but changed his mind at the last minute. United look very, very good going forward.”
By the time Rashford missed that chance, Marouane Fellaini had made it 3-0 after 27 minutes and a repeat of 2014’s 7-0 thrashing looked possible. United finished the first half with 13 shots, while Galaxy, watched by former player David Beckham, had none.
Both teams changed all 11 players at the break, with Lukaku and Victor Lindelof making their debuts. Lukaku was profligate rather than poised as United dominated, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring United’s fourth after being set up by Paul Pogba on 67 minutes.
Anthony Martial made it 5-0 after 72 minutes, with Pogba again involved, plus Timothy Fosu-Mensah. Galaxy got two late goals, but Rashford was the stand out player.
“Last season in this period everyone was saying it would be difficult for me to play him (Rashford), but he was one of the top with appearances of the team,” said Mourinho of a player who played 53 times. “He played the important Europa League matches, he’s learning and he’s a great pro with a great attitude. Last season he was not scoring goals and missing a lot of chances, which was not a drama because that’s part of the evolution. We know he is going to score more goals than last season.”
United full-back Luke Shaw is expecting a big future for Rashford.
“He’s still so young and you can’t put too much pressure on him,” said Shaw, as Rashford walked behind him to the team coach after the game. “He was one of our best players towards the end of the season. He’s scoring goals, he’s going to be a big asset for this club for many years.”