Prior to Thursday night’s European classic between Barcelona and Manchester United, the Spanish giants’ boss Xavi singled out Marcus Rashford as one of the most dangerous players in Europe.
It was not hyperbole, as all those inside the Nou Camp would attest to by the time the full-time whistle was blown on a pulsating 2-2 draw in the first leg of the Europa League play-off.
Rashford wreaked havoc in a deadly second-half display in which he scored one goal and played a huge part in the other – and he is firmly on course for his best-ever season in football.
The England forward’s goal against Barcelona took his total in a sensational season to 22 in all competitions, equalling his best return with plenty more games still left. “He is virtually unplayable at the moment,” said former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes on BT Sport. “No-one can handle him. Wherever he is playing, left, right or down the middle, he just seems unplayable.”
Former England goalkeeper Rob Green, watching the game for BBC Radi’He’s on fire’ – Rashford set for most prolific seasono 5 live, added: “Rashford is on fire right now. “He was probably the difference between the two teams.”Rashford’s form since the World Cup has, in particular, been incredible.
The 25-year-old has scored 14 goals in his last 16 games, while his strike against Barcelona – a smart near-post finish – was his fourth in five Europa League games.
“Marcus Rashford is on smoke,” ex-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted. “He is on a new level, a level he hasn’t been at until now, a level of consistency he hasn’t been able to stay at until now.
“A fit, focused, direct, confident, deadly and potent Rashford is not to be messed with.”
Those watching Rashford’s performance at home were similarly enthused by his display.
“Ten Hag has turned Rashford into some monster,” commentated Michael on Twitter, while Kaden added: “Bold statement but I’m calling it, Rashford is the best striker in the world. “He had a few tough seasons at United but this season he has come into his element.
Scored practically every game whether it is at the Camp Nou on a Thursday night or at a cold Elland Road on a Sunday afternoon.”
Thursday night highlighted just how much more there is to Rashford than goals. He played a huge role in Manchester United’s second, darting inside a defender from a short corner before driving a ball across the face of goal that deflected off Jules Kounde and into the back of the net.
Rashford’s pace often gave the Barcelona defence nightmares and Kounde was fortunate not to be sent off when he tripped the frontman as he raced onto a long ball towards goal.