Manchester United’s come from behind victory over Crystal Palace on Monday was certainly a game of 2 halves. All 3 United goals came in the second half, and the last 2 came in the final 15 minutes. Though he was not directly involved in the goals, Marcus Rashford’s substitute appearance after the break immediately improved United’s attack by adding pace, width, and direction, all qualities United will need in their upcoming battle with Liverpool at Old Trafford.
Rashford has only made substitute appearances since the new year (his last Premier League start coming on Boxing Day), but that needs to change on Saturday. Anthony Martial was in good form to start 2018, but has since lost confidence after a couple bad performances. Alexis Sánchez has played well since joining United in January, but has yet to form an effective attacking partnership with Anthony Martial. Rashford’s work rate on and off the ball is higher than Martial’s. He could compliment Alexis well, and give width to a United attack that lacked just that on Monday.
José Mourinho’s decision to bring on Rashford undoubtedly changed the game for United, and allowed the side to create more chances at a faster pace. The centrally focused lineup was a disaster in the first half at Selhurst Park. It was unclear if Jesse Lingard was supposed to be a winger, but he clearly did not find his way to the wings often, and Alexis Sánchez appeared to play more as a striker next to Romelu Lukaku. Rashford was a welcome reinforcement to Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia, who both understandably struggled to take on the burden of being the only wing players offensively and defensively.
That cannot happen on Saturday, or the visitors from Merseyside will almost certainly take advantage.
Liverpool’s attacking play is quick, precise, and relentless. We’ve seen that United are capable of withstanding it, but the Red Devils can do more than just dig in. Rashford and Alexis out wide would help the chances of scoring on the counter attack, something United failed to do at Anfield in October. Mourinho must realize the amount of pressure David De Gea and the United defense were put under when the two sides first met this season, and he would be wise to avoid another siege.
Rashford won’t singlehandedly lift the pressure off of De Gea and carry his team to victory, but he’s a proven player in big games. His proven record in big games and his direct attacking style will give the Liverpool defense fits, and will give United the chances they lacked. He came on too late to make an impact at Anfield, so why not let him have at it at Old Trafford?
Marcus Rashford is a player who is adored by fans, and is a coveted youth product hungry for action after an extended stay on the bench. Liverpool is the only one of United’s rivals the young striker hasn’t scored against. Rashford could make yet another surge for the second half of the season. It’s not quite “Squeaky Bum Time,” but United are in a close battle for the top 4 and could use a result to give themselves some breathing room in 2nd.