Sharp and strong Marcus Rashford is showing early signs he's ready to lead Man United's attack

Matt Jones 16/07/2017
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All eyes were on big Belgian Romelu Lukaku, but it was explosive teenager Marcus Rashford who made a considerable impact with a brace in Manchester United’s first outing of pre-season.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic released (although manager Jose Mourinho has hinted he may still have a future at Old Trafford) and record club goalscorer Wayne Rooney returning to boyhood club Everton, Lukaku was brought in from the Toffees for big money last week to be United’s new attacking spearhead.

On this showing the £75million man will have to get a lot sharper to become the weapon which caused so much damage with 25 Premier League goals last season.

But given United’s impressive 5-2 victory against the LA Galaxy in California was the first outing for the players, it’s important not to read too much into Lukaku’s debut, who it should be said enjoyed a solid first outing in a red jersey, although the 24-year-old should have opened his United account minutes after coming on at half-time.

Homegrown hero Rashford, though, lent weight to the belief he can be United’s great new striking hope with a brace in an eye-catching 45-minute display.

The 19-year-old’s all-round performance should excite United fans. This wasn’t a typical pre-season opener, with United fast and flowing from the first whistle. The Galaxy are in the midst of the MLS season yet United were on a different planet to them in the first half.

And Rashford was at the heart of their ferocious start, anticipating passes, making adroit runs into space, as well as holding his line so as to not stray offside – something he’s been guilty of in the past.

If you follow Rashford on social media, you’ll know he’s been busy in the gym during the off-season and it was noticeable that he’s beefed up. In one passage of play he dropped deep to the halfway line to receive a pass, holding the ball up in coverage before cleverly turning defender Hugo Arellano, who was forced to haul him down.

It’s no secret that the youngster wants to play as a central striker and he seems to be taking steps to make that happen. He impressively featured in 53 games last season but mainly from the right channel in a three-pronged attack or as one of the three in the 4-2-3-1 formation.

He was criticised for his lack of goals (11, compared to eight in 11 games in a barnstorming breakout 2015/16 campaign) but his detractors didn’t pay much attention to what he did do – making decoy runs, opening up defences by making space for Ibrahimovic and tracking back. Basically learning his trade.

What you saw against the Galaxy was a sharper, focused, hungrier Rashford. His pace often presents him with chances but whereas everything he hit seemed to hit the back of the net in his fledgling season, last term he passed up a lot of opportunities.

He was alert to race onto Jesse Lingard’s pass to calmly stroke home the opening goal after just 115 seconds. He was lethal 18 minutes later too, sweeping past LA ‘keeper Jon Kempin after being teed up by Juan Mata.

The only blot on his outing was a failure to secure the match ball by the break. Rashford beat the offside trap to latch onto Michael Carrick’s lofted pass but with his easiest chance in a one-on-one with Kempin, the stopper smothered his effort.

It is only one game of course, but he seems to have honed his shooting. The spurning of his hat-trick aside, he showed ruthless precision. He was clinical, accurate, deadly. His finishing reminded you of Rooney at his devastating best.

Marcus Rashford and former United captain Wayne Rooney

Mourinho said earlier this year he felt Rashford could surpass Rooney’s United record of 253 goals – which he only set last season after surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton’s previous record of 249 against Stoke in January – if he stays at United for his entire career.

Chris Smalling went further and suggested the teen is the only player who can do it.

That’s a monumental target to set the kid, who despite his bright start to pre-season, faces a tall task to force his way into a central striking role ahead of Lukaku.

But the early indications are that United’s new golden boy has taken his game to a new level. With Rooney and Ibrahimovic now out of the picture, Rashford’s display against Galaxy will have left Mourinho believing the local lad from Wythenshawe can take over the world.

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Jose Mourinho says it's a "shame" Man United did not sign Alvaro Morata

Simon Peach 16/07/2017
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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho says it is a “shame” the club didn’t sign Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata.

Mourinho gave a list of summer targets to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward with the hope of making four top-quality additions.

United have so far brought in Victor Lindelof and Romelu Lukaku, with the latter’s arrival said to have ended their interest in Real frontman Morata.

“He belongs to Madrid,” said former Real boss Mourinho. “Madrid have decided and we have not come to an agreement. It is simple. It is a shame.

“He is a player who made it to the first team with me. We have a special liking for him, he is someone special. I enjoyed watching his evolution at Juventus and Madrid.

“It is like that. I don’t think he can end with us.”

Instead Morata is training just metres away from the team he could have joined given Madrid and United are sharing facilities at UCLA.

Another Madrid man linked to United has been Cristiano Ronaldo but Mourinho admitted a move to bring back the Portuguese to Old Trafford has always been “mission impossible”.

Last month the 32-year-old Real Madrid striker became disgruntled as he felt singled out for disproportionate treatment by Spanish prosecutors, who accused him of evading tax of €14.7million.

Those allegations were denied in a statement by Ronaldo’s management company Gestifute and the attacker was believed to have told those close to him he wanted to quit both the club and Spain.

That stance seems to have softened and talk of a summer return to United – the club where he made his name – has dissipated.

United boss Mourinho worked with his compatriot in Madrid and says an Old Trafford reunion was never on the cards.

“We have never thought about it because he is too much of an important player for his club, of great economic power,” he said.

“We have not been able to find for whatever reason anything that could have made us think that Ronaldo could leave.

Then Real boss Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2011

“I am not a defender of my club once I waste time on players who are mission impossible.”

Mourinho’s men put their five days of hard work there into practice on Saturday evening, kicking off their pre-season tour with a comfortable 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Marcus Rashford’s brace was complemented by a Marouane Fellaini strike in a one-sided first half, before Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial scored for a completely changed second-half team.

Giovani dos Santos pulled back two late goals for the Galaxy on a night on which Mourinho interestingly decided to deploy a three-man defence.

“It was good,” Mourinho said after the StubHub Center friendly, where Lindelof and Lukaku made their first appearances.

“No injuries, everybody played 45 minutes. Okay Timo ( Tim Fosu-Mensah ) 40 minutes.

“The most important thing for me was to compete. The second important thing was to feel the players on the pitch in a system where last season we only played twice.

“It is far from being our system but we were working over the last two days to try to improve, in case we decide during the season to play more matches with three at the back. So positionally it was good.

“We had the ball, we moved the ball well, we reached some good attacking positions and in the end the result is not the most important thing.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Man United boss Jose Mourinho rules out signing Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo

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Jose Mourinho ruled out any attempt to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford after Manchester United opened their US tour here Saturday with a 5-2 rout of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

United manager Mourinho is keen to bolster his ranks further after already strengthening his squad with the additions of Victor Lindelof and Romelu Lukaku.

But the Portuguese manager poured cold water on the possibility of an attempt to prise United legend Ronaldo away from Real Madrid.

“I’m not going to waste my time thinking about players who are mission impossible,” Mourinho told reporters after the win.

Earlier, England striker Marcus Rashford scored twice with Marouane Fellaini, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan bagging United’s other goals in a one-sided victory in front of 25,667 fans at the StubHub Center.

New striker Lukaku was unable to get in on the goals after a 45-minute debut in the second half.

Lukaku missed one golden chance four minutes into his United debut, with his shot saved by Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe.

However Mourinho was satisfied with Lukaku’s “unselfish” display in leading the line.

Manchester United Romelu Lukaku (L) and Los Angeles Galaxy Jelle Van Damme battle for the ball

“Lukaku is a target man, he plays with his back to opponents,” Mourinho said. “A good thing today for me is to see that he’s a team player. He’s not selfish. He’s not obsessed with goals.

“He was not that worried about himself, he was worried about the improvement of the team.”

Rashford meanwhile reminded Mourinho of his eye for goal with a confident first-half display.

The teenager opened the scoring after only two minutes, punishing an error from Ariel Lassiter near the Galaxy penalty area to dart in on goal and place his finish beyond goalkeeper Jon Kempin.

The 19-year-old doubled his tally in the 20th minute, latching onto a clever pass from Juan Mata to make it 2-0.

Mourinho later revealed that Rashford, who looks to have added a physical dimension to his game, was still growing.

“It’s just the natural evolution of a kid,” Mourinho said. “He’s already taller than when I arrived 13 months ago. He’s three centimeters taller. He’s put on some muscle but without any kind of specific work because his speed is his most important quality and we don’t want to lose that.”

Marouane Fellaini ensured United had a 3-0 lead at half-time tucking a low shot past the hapless Kempin after good work down the left flank by Jesse Lingard.

Mourinho changed his entire line-up at half-time, mirroring wholesale changes made by the Galaxy.

United got their fourth of the night on 67 minutes when Martial burst forward and threaded a pass to Mkhitaryan who made no mistake with a confident low strike.

Martial made it 5-0 five minutes later, rifling home Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s pullback.

Galaxy meanwhile, who had failed to register a single attempt on goal in the first half, bagged two late consolation goals through Mexico international Giovani Dos Santos.

Mourinho said the game had been “an amazing training exercise.”

“That’s what we need,” he said. “They gave us two different teams they gave people with intensity, so it was good for us.”

Mourinho was also satisfied with an experimental formation which saw him play with a three-man central defence.

“We tried a system that is not our main system,” he said. “We were working a few days on this to try to make the players feel a new experience in a new position and I’m really happy happy with that.

“It’s something we have to keep working and keep improving in case during the season we decided to play with three at the back. Maybe we want to do it more times.”

United travel to Utah to face Real Salt Lake in the second game of their US tour on Monday.

Provided by AFP Sport

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