In their usually fruitless quest to prove they can still compete with the truly elite clubs in world soccer, Manchester United have apparently decided to challenge Bayern Munich for the title of World’s Most Injured Squad. Just a little while ago, the one bright spot during this season of frustration, Anthony Martial, pulled a hammy before a surprisingly crucial second-leg Europa League match against Midtjylland. Into a lineup already featuring not-quite-venerated names like Guillermo Varela and Joe Riley—themselves only starting thanks to United’s ridiculously long injury record, which I think stands at 14 now—Louis van Gaal turned to the one and only, the young and the, uh, brave (maybe?), Marcus Rashford.
Rashford is an 18-year-old, Manchester-born striker/attacking midfielder type who is just now playing his very first minutes for the United senior team. As a more-or-less anonymous player in the Red Devils’ youth academy, he doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page; as a possibly-promising forward talent at a carefully-studied club like United, though, he of course does have an 8-minute highlight compilation video backed by a typically ear-rending electro song:
This is ... concerning. United are in fifth place in the Premier League, but the six points separating them from Manchester City looks at least twice as large considering the massive gap in performances of the two teams so far this season. United’s best bet to secure Champions League play next year—with all its money and prestige that they’ll likely need in order to convince the kind of players they’ll have to buy in order to get better—is by winning the Europa League.
Unfortunately for them, they managed to lose 2-1 last week to the same tiny team they face today. At halftime right now, the two teams are tied 1-1. United need at least another goal to force extra time, and to win in regulation, they’ll have to win by two goals. Goals they’ll rely on Juan Mata, Memphis Depay, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford to provide.
Good luck, guys.
Update [4:33 p.m.]: He got one!
Keep going, kid!
Update [4:39 p.m.]: OH MY GOD OH MY GOD:
Update [5:02 p.m.]:
Wow. After new Mancunian hero Marcus Rashford set Old Trafford on fire with his brace—remember, in his first ever appearance with the big boys!—the other United players followed the youngster’s lead. An Ander Herrera penalty and a Memphis Depay outside the box blast—which was richly deserved, as Depay was an attacking demon all game—put the final scoreline at 5-1 in favor of United. I need a cigarette.
Photo via Getty