August 16, 2017
Fast, counter attacking football. That is the identity that Manchester United built for itself during its glory days under Sir Alex Ferguson. Anyone who remembers the counter attacks led by Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, and Cristiano Ronaldo or Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Andy Cole, and Dwight Yorke could see the difference in the Manchester United of old and the sad state the Red Devils were in since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. The formations Ferguson would typically field would utilise a striking partnership. It appears that a new partnership is blossoming between Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku.
This is a frightening proposition for Premier League and European competition alike. The two complement each other well, as seen in the recent victory over West Ham. Lukaku after the match in an interview with MUTV was quoted saying; “With me and Marcus, there’s something special…Hopefully we can produce even more [in the future] than we did today. We clicked from the first day that I arrived, and I knew that he would help me settle in at the club.” His excitement will be shared by the fans who witnessed the pace and power he brings to this United side.
What is perhaps best about the pair is their differing skill sets and playing styles. This allowed them to combine well and give opposing defenses fits. Lukaku’s ability to run onto through balls and Rashford’s burgeoning passing abilities were seen combining in Lukaku’s first goal. The goal was a result of an intelligent run made by Lukaku through the middle made possible by a superb ball from Rashford. The big Belgian’s pinpoint finishing was exemplified in an inch perfect attempt that rattled off the post and in past ex City keeper Joe Hart.
Lukaku’s second goal shows how he can help provide more of a presence in the box while he and Rashford play. Rashford, while undoubtedly making strides in his strength since last season, is only nineteen years old and cannot compete in the air to the level Lukaku can. Lukaku’s presence allows Rashford to lurk in the box during crossing situations in a poacher role, looking to push in rebounds and loose balls rather than getting on the end of the initial cross.
An attribute that they both possess that dramatically changes the look of the Manchester United squad from last season is their pace. The two possess blistering speed that allows them to run the counter with terrifying efficiency. This pace is the one aspect of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s game that held United back. The inability to attack teams on the counter gave United one less weapon to change draws into victories.
The young Rashford will have every opportunity to learn from some of the best professionals in the game during the early going of his career. Rashford’s emergence under ex-captain Wayne Rooney, his experience under the tutelage of the legendary Ibrahimovic, and his partnership with the prolific Lukaku will allow him to pick aspects of each player’s game in order to create his own style going forward. Manchester United now are reequipped with the attacking riches and swagger that made them great in the early days of the Premier League.
While the competition for the title has shifted away from the likes of Blackburn and Newcastle the objective remains the same. Trophies are the only markers of a successful season at a historic club like Manchester United and there will be opportunities to collect more than one this upcoming season with a striking partnership like Lukaku and Rashford.