Marcus Rashford looks like a “lean, fighting machine” according to Roy Keane, who praised the forward for taking charge after a 10th goal in 10 games.
Manchester United took total control of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest with a 3-0 win in the first leg at the City Ground, Rashford opening the scoring with a fine solo run which spoke volumes for the England forward’s current confidence.
Keane said: “We were on the pitch when the players came out and he looked thin. You wouldn’t want to be up against him – all good.
“He looks like a lean fighting machine.
“Sometimes it’s about confidence – that’s where he’s peaking now. He’s played a lot of games for United and big games for England in the last few years.
“Sometimes a player’s ear drops in terms of decision-making and putting the ball in the back of the net. And they’ve needed him.
“The question mark I’ve had about Marcus over the last couple of years is, has he got that personality to come through?
“United have had some great strikers over the years and I think they need one like that. Marcus has to say he wants that responsibility to be the main man. The best players turn up week in and week out. He seems to be enjoying that responsibility now, which is great to see.”
When asked if Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the club has helped Rashford’s confidence, Keane replied: “When a player leaves the club, the responsibility goes to another player.
“He’s 25, not a kid, sometimes when the timing is right you can be ready. He’s not getting those nasty injuries with his groin anymore, he seems to have cleaned up. He looks good mentally, too, which is huge. He said he thinks he put on too much weight away from football – and being a top footballer is tough enough.
“So by putting the other things on the back burner and focusing on being a top player for Manchester United, he’s got his priorities right.”
Michael Dawson added Sky Sports: “His best position is out on the left, but since Erik ten Hag has come in, he has done a lot to get him back to his best level.
“He was disappointing last year and struggled with form. What I see now is a completely different player, fearless and full of confidence. He doesn’t play safe and is direct with the ball at his feet.
“If he loses it, he has an aura where it doesn’t seem to bother him.”
Ten Hag: In this mood, Rashford is unstoppable
Rashford’s return to his best this season has coincided with the appointment of Erik ten Hag, who could lead United to their first trophy in five seasons in his first year in the job.
When asked if anyone in the country is playing better than Rashford, Ten Hag said: “Other players are playing well, but I’m happy for Marcus. His performance and development since the start of the season is growing and he continues to do so to do. We must, and of course he is also responsible for that, keep that process going.
“In this mood and this spirit, I think he’s unstoppable. So it’s about the team getting into the right positions.
“In possession we have a plan. But it’s also about intuition and the creativity of individuals like Rashford to create chances.
“When you have players like Rashford, like Bruno, like Antony, like (Anthony) Martial, and like Christian Eriksen, don’t forget him, (who can) be creative in the final third and do something unexpected, some crazy things, that also gives the team some imagination and adventure.”
Ten Hag also played down any concerns over Rashford’s withdrawal in the 57th minute.
The United manager said so Sky Sports: “We have a lot of games, Marcus did his game, did his job, scored another goal, we won, in a good position and Garnacho is really hungry to play games, play minutes and also to get into the team.
“Yes, we have to play one (more) game. We have to do the same, prepare and make a good plan. The players have to be focused.”