We may only be one game into the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, but the mood surrounding the red side of Manchester has already been uplifted.
The 5-1 victory over Cardiff City epitomised the exact kind of performance that every Red Devil has been demanding to see – their side deployed with an attacking and expansive mindset.
Leading the line of the dynamic front three was Marcus Rashford, who opened the scoring with an explosive free-kick in just the third minute of the game. In Romelu Lukaku’s absence, the Englishman looked sharp and certainly played with a point to prove to his new manager, boding the question amongst fans as to whether the 21-year-old can now push on and assert himself as the club’s starting striker.
Going forward, it certainly seems that Solskjaer is committed to a system that pays heavy emphasis on his attacking stars, with the Norwegian advocating these players to express themselves with an aura of freedom in their game.
The right man for an attacking system
Against Cardiff City, the Manchester United players operated with a sense of confidence and positivity in their play, something that fans had not seen enough under Jose Mourinho. Instead of being setup pragmatically, with a philosophy of keeping it tight at the back and hurting the opposition on the counter, United took the game to the Bluebirds.
The three front men of Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Rashford were granted a license to roam around the final third and attack the space in-behind Cardiff’s defence. United’s movement in their opposition’s half was a refreshing sight for their travelling fans, who were singing the team’s praises throughout the entire game.
Leading the line, Rashford was full of energy and played with a spring in his step. In contrast to Lukaku, who has often played with a touch of rigidness, the Englishman’s inventive movement created openings for his fellow teammates, who were able to get further up the field in the process.
The likes of Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba found themselves in more advanced positions of the field, where they could feed the frontrunners more directly, as opposed to trying to distribute from deep.
Setting the tone of the team both on and off the ball, his performance at the Cardiff City Stadium was arguably Rashford’s finest of the season so far. Football fans have become accustomed to seeing that sort of display by the youngster in an England shirt, so it was refreshing to see him playing in red with a smile on his face.
Flourishing in his natural position
It was certainly of no coincidence to see why Rashford played with such confidence, as he was actually deployed in his natural position. Coming through the ranks as a striker, this is where the young prodigy made a name for himself at Old Trafford. Despite initially impressing as a front-man against Midtjylland and Arsenal in his opening two games for the club, Rashford has often found himself playing out on the left flank.
Although he is a versatile figure, there is no denying that Rashford’s strongest position is as a striker. When given the freedom to run in-behind his opponent’s backline, this is when the Englishman’s best assets are utilised. Although his clinical finishing could do with improving, fans do prefer seeing the Englishman being used as a striker, as opposed to being a winger. Besides, who better to develop the 21-year-old than a man with 126 goals as a Red Devil?
Epitomising the attitude that Solskjaer is currently demanding from his group of players, expect to see Rashford in the starting lineup in the coming future. Under the Norwegian’s leadership, the Englishman could transcend into one of the league’s top performers. Let’s hope that he can take his golden chance yet again.