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Rashford emulating Rooney and Ronaldo for Man Utd - but will he ever get a rest?

The 23-year-old has been struggling with his fitness in recent weeks, but he continues to score crucial goals, and did so again versus Granada

Marcus Rashford’s movement for Manchester United’s opener against Granada was so quick, that it even managed to catch the Spanish television crew off guard.

Replays were still being shown to audiences around the world as the England international cut inside from the left to make a perfect run in between full-back Victor Diaz and centre-back Domingos Duarte, before getting on the end of a delicious pass over the top from Victor Lindelof.

Rashford was able to bring the ball down with a superb first touch before providing a finish to give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side a 31st-minute lead at Los Carmenes.

While the move may have caught the game's director out, it will have come as no surprise to United's coaches, who have been working tirelessly with Rashford on his finishing all season.

His goal, coupled with Bruno Fernandes' late penalty, means United now have one foot in the semi-finals of the Europa League, with Rashford also having now emulated a number of former United icons.

This was his eighth time he has found the net in continental competition this season - the most a United player has scored in Europe since Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007-08, while you have to go back to Sir Bobby Charlton in 1964-65 to find an Englishman who scored as many in a single campaign for the club.

Rashford also became the first United player to score 20 or more goals in consecutive seasons since Wayne Rooney did so between 2008-2010.

When you take into consideration that he is no longer on penalty duty, has had questions asked of him regarding his finishing and has spent much of the season playing through the pain barrier, that is quite the achievement.

When Romelu Lukaku left for Inter in the summer of 2019, Solskjaer threw down the gauntlet to his current forwards to hit that 20 goal-a-season mark. Both Anthony Martial and Rashford stepped up last season, and while the former has struggled during the current campaign, scoring just seven, the latter has continued to progress.

Just under two-and-a-half years ago, Jose Mourinho declared that Rashford, along with a number of other first-team players, was lacking "maturity", but that is something under Solskjaer’s tutelage that he has improved.

But if there were concerns over the forward's mentality under previous coaches, then right now the worries among United fans are regarding Rashford's physical state.

That he was even on the pitch at all here was a hotly-debated topic even ahead of kick-off.

His management team responded to a fan’s question on social media recently by admitting that the last time Rashford was fully fit was two years ago, and he is expected to have a shoulder operation after this summer’s European Championship.

He had to be assessed in Spain Thursday morning ahead of kick-off, and despite still being "sore" he told Solskjaer he was fit to play.

Rashford lasted 65 minutes before he was given a rest, but either Edinson Cavani or Amad Diallo could have started here to give a player who has appeared in all but two of United games this season a rest.

"We can rest when we retire,” Rashford replied recently when asked about his fitness, but even at his relatively young age of 23, he is going to need a break at some point.

Given his goal-scoring form, though, it is difficult to see how United could cope without him.

Here neither starting No.9 Mason Greenwood nor winger Daniel James managed a shot, while only Rashford and Fernandes were able to test goalkeeper Rui Silva across the whole 90 minutes.

Only Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah have found the net more often than United's two top-scorers among Premier League players this season - a statistic while only highlights just how dangerous the Red Devils would be if they also had a free-scoring central striker.

Solving that problem is for the summer, but in the meantime there is still silverware to be won before the season is out.

United should now progress to what would be a fifth semi-final in all competitions under Solskjaer, though they are yet to reach a showpiece final with the Norwegian in charge.

With Rashford in this form, though, that duck could easily be broken. United must hope that by that point of the season, their free-scoring No.10 is not.

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