Marcus Rashford could have withered after dreadful miss – instead he pulled Man Utd back from the brink

Andre Onana grabbed Marcus Rashford’s cheeks with both hands, looked his teammate in the eyes and told him not to lose heart. Manchester United striker coach Benny McCarthy also arrived immediately to console the England forward and tell him to carry on. Eric ten Hag and his assistant Steve McClaren were also there, determined not to let Rashford’s enthusiasm wane.

Marcus Rashford

United’s No. 10 missed a golden opportunity to win a classic FA Cup tie against an old foe with the last kick of normal time, a chance he would not miss for the last time, and the Old Trafford staff were in desperate need of their centre-forward. Thi to clear my head and refocus with 30 minutes to spare to play. Thirty minutes that could define their season.

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You can understand their concern. There have been many moments in an extremely challenging campaign when Rashford retreated into his shell, wilting, plagued by self-doubt when things went wrong.

There were signs of Rashford being his old self going forward, particularly in the first 35 minutes, although the ease with which Jerrel Quinsah got around him to head in Liverpool’s equalizer again raised questions about his work rate. Given. way.

But that dramatic, last-gasp miss was symbolic for a player who has been wrestling with himself for the past eight months. His first touch to meet Christian Eriksen’s brilliant looped pass was perfect and he opened his body beautifully to meet it.

This actually created space for him to get a hidden shot down at the near post, but he headed for the far corner and looked as if he wanted the ground to swallow him when the ball rolled out.

Whether the goal would have stood if he found the net is debatable as Rashford may have been slightly offside but he didn’t know it at the time and it felt like another self-inflicted wound.

Yet what happened next could prove not only to be a turning point in United’s season, and possibly a huge moment in Eric ten Hag’s future, but perhaps also the catalyst to Rashford regaining his best form and confidence. Need to search from. There were times this season when that miss would have eaten away at Rashford.

That he responded so fearlessly in extra time and refused to allow it to define his afternoon – and arguably his season – speaks volumes and there could not have been a more popular goalscorer than when he equalized with Scott in the 112th minute. McTominay’s pass was sent into the goal and the goal was scored. 3-3 and the start of one of the great FA Cup comebacks.

Perhaps it helped that Rashford didn’t have too much time to think about it, seeing McTominay’s pass come his way and first-time drilling it hard and low into the very corner he was aiming for. And it wasn’t long before.

Rashford has scored some big goals in his United career but this felt huge on an individual and collective level and ultimately paved the way for Amad Diallo’s extraordinary winner. It was his third goal in as many games and, he hopes, will be the start of a hot streak, as he found regularly last season.

The mistake was not his only in the game. In fact he fired wide with only Caoimhin Kelleher to beat in the final seconds of the first half of extra time, although, on that occasion, he probably knew he was offside as he hit the goal.

Generally, Ten Hag would be encouraged that Rashford’s attacking play had a sense of purpose, energy, urgency and intent.

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McTominay should actually have put United 2-0 up in the first half from Rashford’s lovely pass and only a good save from Kelleher prevented the England striker from scoring early on.

The challenge now – for Rashford as well as United – is to ensure this statement turns into something meaningful over the next two months.

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