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Man United must demonstrate that they can win without Rashford



This season, the question has become increasingly common: Where would Manchester United be without Marcus Rashford?

Worryingly for Erik ten Hag, they may soon find out.

A cloud rose on a bright spring day at Old Trafford full of optimism as Rashford gingerly left the stage in the 81st minute, sullen as he reached his groin.

A well-deserved victory over Everton, thanks to a lively performance. Christian Eriksen is back. The first goal of Anthony Martial’s recent return, as well as confirmation that Casemiro is back in action after his four-match suspension.

Ten Hag’s mood was darkened by the sight of Rashford walking straight down the tunnel, and he wondered about the fixture schedule that saw United play last on Sunday and first on Saturday, with a midweek game against Brentford in between.

The schedule between now and the end of a season that could reach 65 games couldn’t be better, and Rashford won’t be the last United player to falter.

On Monday, the striker will be evaluated again by United’s medical staff, and Ten Hag must hope it was a false alarm. On the Sabbath, he used the word “prayer,” which was not very touching.

‘We have the capability,’ Ten Hag said. ‘Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Marcel Sabitzer, and Antony are all capable of scoring goals. The good news is that Anthony Martial is getting stronger and more capable of scoring goals.’

That sounds good. But, this season, here’s the reality: Sancho had five goals, Fernandes had ten, Sabitzer had one, and Antony and Martial each had seven. 30 in total, just two more than Rashford’s career high of 28.

Even when he wasn’t scoring, he set up Martial’s second goal after Scott McTominay converted one of a hat trick of chances United created in a one-sided first half. Rashford has appeared in more games for United than any other player.

United have adapted to losing key players this season, but if he is ruled out for an extended period of time, his shoes may be a little more difficult to fill.

Ten Hag can reflect on a hugely promising performance — albeit against a strangely submissive Everton — while he waits for news. Fernandes directed proceedings from deep midfield, and United peppered Everton’s goal with 21 shots in the first half, the most since the 2003-04 season. Jordan Pickford’s saves kept the game from becoming a rout.

United’s defense was faultless, save for an excellent chance squandered by Ellis Simms, who dragged the ball wide.

Harry Maguire filled in for Lisandro Martinez and demonstrated why there will be plenty of clubs willing to offer him a regular starting spot if he decides in the summer that his opportunities at Old Trafford are too limited.

When Maguire starts, United has won their last ten games.

‘I’m not going to stand here and say I love or like it. ‘I don’t,’ said the Manchester United captain. ‘I’ve wanted to play every game for the last eight years.

‘But it’s not like I’ve been shut out or excluded. I’m still addicted to video games.

‘Every chance I’ve had for the club this year, as well as for England in the World Cup and qualifiers, I’ve felt like I’ve done myself justice.’

If Rashford’s injury dampened United’s optimism, Everton also came crashing down after a four-match unbeaten streak that included late equalizers against Tottenham and Chelsea.

The only thing keeping Sean Dyche’s side out of the relegation zone is goal difference.

‘We just didn’t get into it,’ admitted defender James Tarkowski. ‘Jordan was fantastic, but the second goal killed the game and killed the atmosphere. We still have eight games left, and there are plenty of points to be won. It’s just a reminder of the goals we need to set for ourselves.’

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