Football: United's 18-year-old Rashford enjoys dream debut in Europa League after late call-up

Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring the third goal for Manchester United.
Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring the third goal for Manchester United. PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - Manchester United's teenage striker Marcus Rashford was a late inclusion against Midtjylland in Thursday's Europa League clash after a team-mate was injured in the warm-up and delivered two goals in a 5-1 win for a dream debut.

The 18-year-old Manchester-born player netted twice in 12 second-half minutes at Old Trafford's famous Stretford End to put United in control of a last-32 tie that seemed to be drifting away for them after they lost the first leg 2-1.

"A dream debut, amazing feeling to score twice and contribute to the team. Onto the next round," he tweeted, while United's under-pressure Dutch manager Louis van Gaal said that the youngster gave a great performance.

Rashford, who replaced Antony Martial after the Frenchman injured his hamstring before kick-off, made his first from close range after 63 minutes off a Juan Mata cross and then converted Guillermo Varela's centre on the half-volley for his second.

Rashford's opener meant that, at 18 years and 117 days, he became the club's youngest scorer in Europe, eclipsing the great George Best (18 years and 158 days) who netted in a 6-1 win over Djurgarden in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in October 1964.

Van Gaal, asked if he had any doubts about putting Rashford in the team, told a post-match news conference: "I didn't have another option so it was easy. He was there on the bench because he was the natural substitute for Martial."

The Danish champions had taken the lead through Pione Sisto but Midtjylland's Nikolay Bodurov scored an own goal before Mata missed a penalty as United seemed set to struggle again.

But Rashford, who was not even among the players listed on the back of the programme, grabbed his double to put United 3-1 ahead on the night before an Ander Herrera penalty and late Memphis Depay strike wrapped up a 6-3 aggregate victory.

United are fifth in the Premier League, six points adrift of the top four spots and a Champions League qualifying place, but since last season the Europa League winners have been granted a spot in the continent's elite club competition.

The draw for the last 16 takes place on Friday.