New Old Trafford hero

Manchester United's latest scoring sensation Marcus Rashford (left) heads home his second goal against Arsenal. The 18-year-old has scored four goals in the Red Devils' past two matches.
Manchester United's latest scoring sensation Marcus Rashford (left) heads home his second goal against Arsenal. The 18-year-old has scored four goals in the Red Devils' past two matches.PHOTO: REUTERS

Rashford scores two, creates another as Man United severely dent Arsenal's Premier League title challenge

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Manchester United 3
Arsenal 2

If a star is born, a title challenge is at risk of dying.

Marcus Rashford's astonishing start to his Manchester United career continued with a match-winning double, yet, while he has provided a welcome boost to morale at Old Trafford and looks a player with the potential to make a major impression over many years, the immediate impact was felt by Arsenal.

They are accustomed to losing at Old Trafford, but not to a United team shorn of 12 injured players and when there is a clear opportunity to become champions.

This was a fine result for United and a better one for Leicester, who remain five points clear of the Gunners in the Premier League.

Arsenal's performance yesterday amounted to a failure of nerve. Disastrous defending was allied with an air of chaos. The predatory prodigy Rashford capitalised and, while Arsenal scored twice, they got what they deserved.

With four demanding away trips left this season, the odds are that the title is not bound for the Emirates.

It will not go to Old Trafford either, but United have regained a little of their old swagger after a week that has yielded three wins, 11 goals and proof - in Rashford - that they can produce their own players.

Four goals in three days have propelled Rashford from obscurity to celebrity. His name was not even on the back of the United programme for Thursday's match against Midtjylland.

But it was on the lips of thousands at Old Trafford, and perhaps millions elsewhere, after a four-minute double gave him a second successive brace. The newcomer was unfazed and unstoppable.

Starting because Anthony Martial had joined Wayne Rooney among the absentees, he was not the only rookie to impress.

The first goal was created by a player making his second league start and scored by one making his first. Guillermo Varela's cross was not cleared properly by Gabriel and Rashford's finish was assured.

The second involved both, along with a third young player Louis van Gaal has promoted. Varela headed the ball into Jesse Lingard's path and his lobbed cross was redirected in by the 18-year-old.

Rashford's contribution also extended to an assist. He set up Ander Herrera, whose 20-metre shot was deflected in off Laurent Koscielny's chest. It proved decisive, sandwiched as it was by Arsenal's two goals.

Another United youth product, Danny Welbeck, scored on his second consecutive trip to Old Trafford, heading in Mesut Oezil's free kick. Remarkably, Welbeck is a product of the same amateur club, Fletcher Moss, as Rashford.

The same two Gunners combined to reduce the deficit again. After Welbeck's shot was blocked by a fit-again David de Gea, Oezil hooked in the rebound. But while Arsenal's attempts to score an equaliser grew more frantic, none was forthcoming on an awful afternoon for Arsene Wenger.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline 'NEW OLD TRAFFORD HERO'. Print Edition | Subscribe