Hull City 0 Manchester United 1: When it comes to the pressures of dealing with football fame at a young age, Wayne Rooney has plenty of advice to pass on to Marcus Rashford. It seems, though, as if he may not need to.
Rashford is treading a similar path to the one taken by Rooney more than a decade ago; a young forward who bursts onto the Premier League scene in his teens, astonishes everyone, and quickly makes the England squad.
Rooney could tell his young Manchester United team-mate that there will be blips and setbacks along the way, and that having the mental strength to overcome these is as important to success as technical ability. Yet Rashford is already showing he has the focus that will be vital if he is to play regularly for Jose Mourinho.
The move that led to United’s winning goal, at the end of a slog of a game in a downpour at Hull, was as much about mental strength in adversity as it was about skill. Rooney, who had played poorly for 91 minutes, suddenly found a burst of pace to get clear of Ahmed Elmohamady, crossing low for Rashford to touch in from close range. The goal maintained United’s 100% start to the league season.
It was a sweet moment for Rashford, benched for the opening three league games of the season because of Mourinho’s preference for new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It was sweet too for Rooney, barracked by supporters for the standard of his display prior to that point.
“Marcus is a fantastic player, one of the brightest talents in European football,” said Rooney. “I’m sure his chance will come. I don’t know how long he got on the pitch here but he did brilliantly when he came on and got his goal. He’s an important player for us.”
Rashford was given the final 19 minutes at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday evening, as a replacement for Juan Mata, and almost scored moments before his winner, creating space by shifting his balance to wrongfoot an opposing defender, and guiding a shot towards the far corner, kept out superbly by goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic’s full-length dive.
Mourinho, despite his arguments to the contrary since arriving at Old Trafford, does not have a reputation for giving young players a chance, but knows he cannot ignore this teenager.
“I had the youngest player ever to score a goal in a Champions League final, Carlos Alberto for Porto at 18 years old,” said Mourinho. “So it depends on the quality of the players. If the quality is very good, you forget about the passport.”
Rashford acknowledged frustration at not playing any part in United’s opening two Premier League matches, but said all the right things about working hard and waiting for his chance.
Watching Rooney struggle for much of the evening, giving away possession too often and slowing up United’s attack, he might have learned plenty about the value of keeping going when the chips are down.
“He was like the team,” Mourinho said of his captain. “In the first half, he was OK, but the team were a little bit slow in the transitions. The team were not playing with the intensity that we need and he was part of it. In the second half when the team brought a different gear, he did the same.”
This was a tough evening for United, not helped by a back injury to Marouane Fellaini which is likely to keep him out for several weeks. Credit for the difficulties faced by Mourinho’s team must go to Hull, a club in the midst of a full-blown crisis off the pitch, and with barely enough players to field a team on it, who have nonetheless collected six points from their first three matches.
It could have been nine had David Meyler not blazed over a chance seconds before Rashford’s winner. It would have been seven had they seen off that one final attack from the visitors.
Supporters furious at a lack of investment from owners Assem and Ehab Allam are hoping a takeover by a Chinese consortium goes through sooner rather than later, that money is freed up to sign players before Wednesday’s transfer deadline, and that a decision is made as to whether caretaker-manager Mike Phelan gets the job full-time.
Phelan said: “We’re at this stage now, we have an international break, we’ve got a bit of business to do in the transfer window I suppose and then after that it’s down to asking, ‘Who do you want to take this club forward?’ I think that’s up to whoever is in charge to make that call and to make it as quickly as possible.”
HULL CITY (4-2-3-1):
Jakupovic 7; Elmohamady 6, Livermore 7, Davies 9, Robertson 7; Meyler 6, Clucas 7; Snodgrass 6 (Maloney 48, 6), Huddlestone 7, Diomande 6; Hernandez 6 (Maguire 83).
Subs not used:
Kuciak, Bowen, Olley, Clackstone, Hinchcliffe
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1):
De Gea 6; Valencia 7, Bailly 7, Blind 7, Shaw 7; Pogba 7, Fellaini 7; Mata 6 (Rashford 71, 8), Rooney 6 (Smalling 90), Martial 5 (Mkhitaryan 60, 7); Ibrahimovic 6.
Subs not used:
Romero, Herrera, Young, Schneiderlin Referee: Jon Moss
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