Marcus Rashford’s starting place with Manchester United and England has been put in jeopardy by the tremendous form of his best pal Jesse Lingard.
Given the chance to impress against CSKA Moscow on Tuesday night in order to try and win his place back for the Manchester derby, Rashford passed his audition with flying colours.
He excelled in general play, was unlucky with several chances and finally produced the finishing touch that Lingard showed against Arsenal, scoring for the time in 10 games with a composed first-time strike with his left foot.
Marcus Rashford scored Manchester United’s second goal against CSKA Moscow
The 20-year-old has given his manager a selection dilemma for the Manchester derby
What a dilemma Jose Mourinho now faces when picking his side to face Manchester City at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Rashford burst on the scene on another European night, against FC Midtjylland in 2015. Now 20, the Mancunian is leaving boy wonder territory, but can still get supporters on the edge of their seats with his raw pace and quick feet.
Mourinho selected Lingard ahead of Rashford last weekend and was rewarded with a 3-1 win, Lingard scoring twice.
This time, in a Champions League tie in which United only had to avoid a four-goal defeat to qualify for the knockout stages, Rashford started up front in a 3-5-2 alongside Romelu Lukaku but during the 90 minutes, also appeared on both flanks where he caused CSKA major problems.
Jesse Lingard is also playing brilliantly well and has a strong case to start at the weekend
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It was centrally that Rashford first had an impact. Running in behind the Russian’s defence, he raced onto a Lukaku pass and clipped his finish past Igor Akinfeev in composed fashion, only for the ball to roll against the post.
That quickly turned out to be the story of the first three-quarters of his evening. After 14 minutes when Lukaku sped down the left, Rashford watched as the cross went behind him as he waited to finish.
A lovely touch and pass from Juan Mata allowed Rashford to have another good dig from the edge of the box, Akinfeev producing a good low save.
The goalkeeper also saved from the United forward in the second half and Rashford must have feared it wouldn’t be his night when a free-kick deflected off the top of the wall and flew just wide.
What was impressive was how the youngster refused to let his head drop. Both Mourinho and England manager Gareth Southgate love his mentality and he continued to torment Aleksandr Golovin and the rest of the CSKA team with his fancy footwork and driving runs, even if the luck in front of goal had temporarily deserted him.
Jose Mourinho has a wealth of options to choose from ahead of the huge game
Rashford showed his quality as a provider as well as a finisher in the Champions League
He was also unlucky with a couple of through balls to Lukaku to underline he’s a team player when the occasion demanded.
After 66 minutes, Rashford was rewarded for his patience. Lukaku had cancelled out Alan Dzagoev’s for CSKA to make the score 1-1 when his big moment arrived.
Mata scooped a high pass to Rashford just inside the right-angle of the penalty area and he didn’t even need to take a touch to control, instead letting the ball bounce before striking a half-volley across Akinfeev and into the corner.
Mourinho has plenty of attacking talent at his disposal with Anthony Martial also competing for a wide position. But Rashford couldn’t have done any more to convince his manager he’s worth a start against City – though his pal Lingard could argue the same.