Manchester United is saved by Marcus Rashford’s brace; the Red Devils rally in Cyprus to defeat Omonia

Manchester United came back from a goal down in the first half of their Europa League group stage match against Omonia on Thursday to win 3-2 away. Marcus Rashford’s brace helped the team make up for defensive lapses and Cristiano Ronaldo’s missed shots while chasing the 700th goal of his club career.

Despite dominating possession in the first half, it was the home side Omoina who led at the break. A pass from Bruno Filipe set up Omiona for a three-on-one break that David De Gea couldn’t stop. But it’s how the change came about that sums up United’s season thus far. Erik ten Hag’s aggressive setup allows for one mistake to catch the team off guard, which is exactly what happened. After a poor performance in the Manchester derby, left-back Tyrell Malacia has knocked off the ball, allowing Karim Ansarifard to score the easiest goal he will ever score.

These errors resulted in Malacia being substituted at halftime for Luke Shaw, and they may cost him the starting spot at Manchester United based on how the team improved in the second half. Jadon Sancho, who was fine on defense but struggled forward, creating two chances and taking one shot, was also replaced at halftime by Rashford, and the team remembered that they should be winning this game.

It only took Rashford eight minutes after his introduction to find the back of the net.United’s perfect ball over the top left the entire Omoniadefense in the dust, and despite taking a bad touch at first, Rashford was able to fire his chance home to tie things up.

He’d keep the party going by assisting fellow substitute Anthony Martial before scoring twice off a Ronaldo assist. Some question whether Ronaldo was going for a goal when Rashford hit the ball into an empty net, but all of them count the same. The second half wasn’t all smiles for United, as Nikolas Panagiotou fired a great shot past De Gea, but Rashford’s second goal for insurance was crucial to preserving the victory, which keeps United second in Group E behind Real Sociedad.

Here are some key takeaways from the game:

Everything is possible with Rashford.

Without Rashford, the Red Devils are likely to remain in the bottom half of the Premier League. It wouldn’t have been surprised to see ten Hag move on from Rashford after only being involved in six goals during the 2021-22 season, but he has returned to begin one of the first names on the team sheet. Rashford inspired United’s comeback with two goals and an assist from the bench, giving him eight goals in eight appearances this season.

When Rashford entered the game, the entire attack went through him, and defenses aren’t able to key in on him because he’s floating on the right wing or as a center forward. His form has also kept Ronaldo on the bench in the Premier League, and there is no indication that this will change anytime soon.

Where can ten Hag’s depth options be found?

The Europa League has been a good test for United players to demonstrate that they need more time in the Premier League, and people outside of ten Hag’s core rotation haven’t helped their cases, with some performers like Malacia hurting their chances for future starts.

When Rashford entered the game, the entire attack went through him, and despite Ronaldo’s assist, this game would’ve been out of reach if he had taken his chances well. Only one of the eight shots tested the keeper, with another intercepted by Rashford for an assist into an open goal. Ronaldo came close, but with a healthy Martial at ten Hag’s disposal, it’s not enough to push for more Premier League minutes.

In defense, Victor Lindelof and Malacia did not shine, but Casemiro is a depth option pushing for more minutes. He won two of his three tackles and made seven recoveries on defense, allowing Christian Eriksen and Fernandes to push forward and create chances. More of that will be required, and it appears that Casemiro will take over the starting role from Scott McTominay sooner rather than later.

Who would want to play left-back?

When Shaw came on, the team’s performance improved, but he didn’t have the best game, earning a yellow card and failing to create any chances. Diogo Dalot is the clear starter on the right, but ten Hag hasn’t seen enough of anyone to know who will play on the left. After two poor performances from Malacia, Shaw is likely to start against Everton on Sunday, but one of these players must prove to ten Hag that they deserve the role, or another new signing may be made in January.