Marcus Rashford had a Manchester United debut to remember, netting twice in Thursday's 5-1 win against FC Midtjylland, and manager Louis van Gaal has revealed the advice he gave his "unbelievable" striker.
The second-leg victory in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 meant the Red Devils triumphed 6-3 on aggregate, and Van Gaal had some key wisdom to impart upon teenager Rashford as the two teams went in with the scores tied 1-1 at the break, per the Daily Mail's Chris Wheeler:
It was unbelievable. In the first half he ran too much at the sidelines. I said to him at half-time that he had to be in the width of the goal and then he shall score. You see there that he scores two goals. It is fantastic for him.
It was not easy to play his debut in a European match. It’s a higher level and there was the pressure that we had to win, and he showed a fantastic level. But you have to be consistent. We are looking for consistent strikers and there are not so many on this earth. But he made a great performance.
Rashford replaced Anthony Martial at short notice after the French striker got injured in Thursday's warm-up, but Van Gaal couldn't have asked more of the youngster, who helped his side into the Europa League round of 16, where they will face rivals Liverpool.
A knee ligament injury has sidelined Wayne Rooney in recent weeks, but the club captain didn't miss the emergence of new sensation Rashford, taking to Twitter to congratulate the prospect on Friday:
Wayne Rooney @WayneRooney
Great win last night and a brilliant first team debut for Marcus Rashford 👏🏼👏🏼 Liverpool next round!! #mufc https://t.co/LGQ2n8KExo2/26/2016, 12:46:51 PM
BT Sport's Ian Darke pointed to the likes of past and present Manchester United greats Sir Bobby Charlton and Rooney, each of whom also enjoyed memorable goalscoring debuts for the club:
Ian Darke @IanDarke
Two goal dream debut for Man Utd for 18-year-old Marcus Rashford - a feat he shares with Bobby Charlton ! ( Rooney started with hat trick )2/25/2016, 10:53:06 PM
Rashford's emergence could see the forward line up for Sunday's clash against Premier League title contenders Arsenal, depending on the fitness of Martial, with Rooney already out of action.
Van Gaal is also worthy of praise if it was indeed his half-time tutelage that laid the groundwork for Rashford's second-half improvements, during which he presented a much more potent threat in front of goal.
According to WhoScored.com, only one of the 18-year-old's three shots in the first period found the target, equal to a success rate of 33 per cent. That's compared to the 50 per cent ratio he boasted in the second period, hitting the target with two of his four efforts.
Rashford was picked out of the club's academy ranks and could be the next homegrown product on the rise, but his emergence is all the more incredible considering he wasn't even listed in Thursday's match programme:
Bleacher Report UK @br_uk
Marcus Rashford: From his name not even in Manchester United’s match programme to #MUFC hero. (📷 @sistoney67) https://t.co/iBOaGCzQjH2/25/2016, 11:31:43 PM
Manchester United could use all the help they can get their hands on in the hunt for goals, and the injury keeping Rooney sidelined hasn't helped their bid to improve in front of the net.
Rashford has scored just once in eight appearances for Manchester United's reserves this season, but his record in the UEFA Youth League is more prolific, having netted three times in his five outings.
The England under-18 international could be in line to get more action domestically.
Van Gaal undoubtedly has a few more pearls of wisdom to offer his latest sensation, and Rashford may yet come to play a critical role in United's bid to make a success of this season.
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