Marcus Rashford demonstrated bravery by converting a spectacular penalty for Manchester United in their shootout win over Brighton on Sunday night. While he gets credit for it, the England international remained mostly quiet during the game at Wembley. Erik ten Hag needs his talisman to recapture his best form as the club looks to finish the season on a high note, with his goals threatening to dry up.
Rashford could have been forgiven for anticipating the worst when he took the field at Wembley.
The Manchester United player had previously missed for England in their penalty shootout loss to Italy at Euro 2020, an error that would lead to a year of struggles for the forward.
But there would be no repeat of that, with Rashford and Jadon Sancho both finishing with style to help United win.
It was a huge relief for the 25-year-old, who jubilantly celebrated with his teammates as they put their Thursday night humiliation at the hands of Sevilla behind them.
Despite his impressive penalty adventures, Rashford appears to be tiring as the season progresses.
It was a difficult day for the attacker, who lacked serious danger as Brighton dug deep in the capital.
United started the game with Rashford on the left, but he frequently struggled to get past Pascal Gross, who played well at right-back.
It was a similar story when Rashford was pushed to the centre following the departure of Anthony Martial.
The United star’s annoyance intensified as the game progressed, and he was especially irritated when he was denied a free kick late in the game.
Rashford has only scored once in his past eight domestic games, and that came in a 1-0 win against Brentford earlier this month.
Prior to then, he’d won seven of his previous eight games, a run that earned him widespread praise.
Rashford has been United’s talisman this season, having stepped up since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in November.
But, as the conclusion of the season near, he’s beginning to appear weary, which is understandable given United’s current goal drought.
Rashford has appeared in the majority of matches this season, as well as for England in the Qatar World Cup at the conclusion of last year.
However, the Red Devils will need their No. 10 to be at his lethal best between now and the end of the season.
If United defeats Tottenham on Thursday (8.15 p.m.), they will take a major step closer to the Champions League.
Rashford will also have to be at his best to prevent Manchester City from winning the FA Cup in the final on June 3 at Wembley Stadium.
Meanwhile, after Brighton were trounced in the city, Ten Hag hailed both the United star and Sancho.
“We knew that [they had missed previously for England], but we also knew that they are at ease on penalties,” he explained.
“They dealt with it a long time ago, but they are so calm and composed in penalty training.”
“I think it’s great that they have this experience now, and it will help them in the future, and I don’t think there’s any hesitation,” he continued.
“There was never any hesitation before because they are excellent penalty takers.”
Rashford will be looking to make his debut against Tottenham later this week, before facing Aston Villa on Sunday (2pm).