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It took Zlatan Ibrahimovic just 194 seconds to show Manchester United fans exactly what he is all about but Marcus Rashford’s second-half display in the 5-2 victory over Galatasaray on Saturday reminded Jose Mourinho that he has more than just a single superstar option up front.
Ibrahimovic’s debut was always going to be the headline attraction of the evening in Gothenburg, and his acrobatic fourth-minute goal ensured that the Swedish branch of United’s supporters club got exactly what they came to see. Yet United looked set for defeat when the former Paris Saint-Germain star left the field, and it was Rashford who ended up making the game-winning impact.
Having seen their Monday clash with Manchester City in Beijing lost to the weather, United arrived in Sweden still smarting from a 4-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund last time out. And for long spells of the first half a repeat of that lacklustre performance seemed likely to be on the horizon as Mourinho’s men were given the run-around by Galatasaray’s quick passing style, with the Turks heading in at the interval 2-1 up.
Yet Rashford replaced Ibrahimovic at half-time as one of five changes and quickly made the sort of impact which will have left a lasting impression on both the crowd and the manager. First, his excellent interplay with Antonio Valencia opened the way for Wayne Rooney to equalise, then he went on a mazy run which ended with Fernando Muslera having no choice but to haul him down for a penalty which Rooney deposited confidently.
Further goals came via Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata as United made the most of the space becoming more apparent later in the game, and Mourinho will head back to Manchester delighted by much of what he saw from his side. There were multiple angles of attack, plenty of players showing for the balls and bundles of confidence. It was nothing like the sort of football the supporters were forced to get used to under Louis van Gaal.
But surely the best thing was the abundance of attacking options suddenly opening up for Mourinho in terms of selection. Those in attendance at the Ullevi Stadium will rightly boast of having been at Ibrahimovic’s goal-scoring debut, but the Portuguese will be reassured after this display that the Swede is only a fraction of his resources in the final third.
And it is the youngest of those options which continues to be one of the most appealing. It is astounding to even consider how much of an unknown Rashford was just six short months ago, yet he was one of England’s few highlights at Euro 2016 and the early signs suggest he is ready to step up his game even further in the battle with Ibrahimovic for a starting shirt.
Mourinho would have been happy with a Zlatan goal in a 1-0 win, and it would certainly have made things easy for the headline writers. But Rashford’s performance in a stirring United comeback will surely give the United boss so much more satisfaction as he looks ahead to the weekly conundrum of who should get the nod between his superstar centre-forward and the pretender to Ibrahimovic’s throne.