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OPINION: Rashford has been carrying Man United this season

  /  autty

The statistics will tell you that Marcus Rashford played his 200th game for Manchester United here and scored two goals. 

They will tell you that he became the fourth youngest player in United's history to reach that milestone behind Norman Whiteside, George Best and Ryan Giggs at the age of 22 years and two months.

They will also tell you that he has now scored 64 career goals for his boyhood team and 19 this season in all competitions, second only to Raheem Sterling of Manchester City.

What the stats won't be able to convey is the manner in which he reached his double century, the freedom of spirit and the sheer joy of playing football that Rashford exuded as he jinked, tricked and literally pirouetted his way past poor Norwich City at Old Trafford.

They won't describe the far-post finish that set United on their way to a badly needed win against the Premier League's bottom club or the instinctive pass that led to goalkeeper Tim Krul fouling Brandon Williams, giving Rashford the chance to make it 2-0 from the penalty spot.

They won't do justice to how he demanded the ball and drove his team forward, taking a responsibility for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side just four days after the manager handed him the captain's armband for the first time.

And they certainly won't reveal that long after Solskjaer had withdrawn him from the fray for his own protection as soon as Anthony Martial had sealed victory with the third goal, the young man was still having treatment in the dressing room on a sore back.

It's no wonder when you consider just how much he has been carrying United this season.

Rashford is one of three players alongside David de Gea and Harry Maguire to start all 22 league games, so important has he become to the team.

Solskjaer indicated that he will rest him for Wednesday's FA Cup replay at home to Wolves, just as he put him on the bench for the first game at Molineux. But he knows United aren't the same without Rashford.

'He is already one of the best offensive players in the whole of Europe,' said Norwich boss Daniel Farke.

'With his pace he is so hard to handle, and also his technique is fantastic. He has an end product. Without any doubt, he is a top-class player.'

On Match of the Day, Danny Murphy championed Rashford as England's main man at Euro 2020 this summer if there are complications with Harry Kane's recovery from hamstring surgery at the weekend.

And Maguire, the player's teammate for both club and country, believes there is still a lot more to come.

'I can remember one of the first sessions when I went to train with England, he really stood out to me there,' said Maguire.

'His ability on the ball, his technique, he has everything to go and have a career at the highest level. I'm pleased for him this year that he is starting to get the goals he deserves. He has a few more in the tank from now until the end of the season.'

Like Rashford, Maguire put his body on the line for the team just a week after suffering a torn hip muscle against Wolves.

'I normally recover quickly and can play with a bit of pain,' he added. 'I got through the game unscathed and I'm ready to go again.'

That did not reflect particularly favourably on Luke Shaw, who was named on the bench after missing the previous two games with a cold and then pulled out before kick-off after 'feeling' his hamstring in the warm-up.

In his absence, the coltish Williams once again pressed his claims to be United's new first-choice left back and Juan Mata was the other outstanding performer.

Mason Greenwood, another star pupil from United's academy, came off the bench to score the fourth and demonstrate once again that he is on the same promising career path as Rashford.

Victory lifted the mood around Old Trafford after a difficult week in which United failed to muster a shot on target against Wolves and were soundly beaten at home by City in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg.

It still couldn't stop a section of supporters venting their anger at the Glazer family and Ed Woodward after it was revealed that the club's executive vice-chairman earned £3.1million last year, more than any other Premier League chief.

As he struggles to revive United's fortunes, Woodward is fortunate to have a young homegrown hero like Rashford for fans to pin their hopes on.

Goodness knows what he would be worth in today's transfer market — not that you would ever expect United to consider selling him or Rashford wanting to leave. 'Can't put into words what it means to follow Giggsy and George Best,' he Tweeted on Saturday after the match.

'Two goals and three points completes a perfect day. Born. Bred. Always red.'