MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho opted to leave “tired” top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the bench for Sunday’s clash with Chelsea but in the Swede’s absence 19-year-old Marcus Rashford delivered in style.
Not only did the England forward provide a confident finish for the seventh-minute opener but his pace, skill and directness troubled Chelsea all afternoon.
“It’s not so much stepping up to the plate, because we’re a team and just missing one player doesn’t cancel out everything that we’ve worked on in the week. Everyone was together, we grafted and put the work in to get the result,” Rashford told Sky Sports.
A pinpoint, defence-splitting pass from Ander Herrera found Rashford on the move and he produced a clinical finish to open the scoring.
“It was a clear pass and he looked up, we made eye contact, and he put the ball exactly where I wanted it. I think it’s exactly what was needed in this team and especially at home because we’ve been lacking understanding and goals,” said Rashford.
“At this stage of the season every game is a massive game. Getting the points has massive importance so we’ve just got to keep going in the league and the Europa League as well,” he said.
Rashford was joined in attack by Jesse Lingaard, normally a midfielder, who in the first half in particular provided verve, movement and ideas.
Mourinho played down his decision to ask Rashford to lead the line, noting he had been a regular throughout this season, but he was clearly pleased with the youngster’s progress.
”Rashford is the third or fourth player with most minutes on the pitch... He plays every game, on the right on the left in one striker in two strikers.
“For his education this is a phenomenal season with an amazing range of different experiences. He is not scoring enough goals. Even today he does not score the first (opportunity). The kid played very well and again it was a great experience for him,” he said.
Editing by Clare Fallon