Much of the focus around Manchester United's Premier League return after 102 days has been about Marcus Rashford, who achieved so many of his goals as an activist over the last three months.
Now, United will be counting on his goals on the pitch when it travels away to Tottenham Hotspur for a crucial clash in the hunt for a Champions League place.
“My day job,” the Manchester United striker tweeted this week alongside a picture of him at practice at the team’s training facility.
First-choice striker, leading goalscorer, now undoubtedly a leader in the eyes of his manager at United.
"We as a club are immensely proud of him,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said about the 22-year-old Rashford in a video call on Thursday. “He is not only a top footballer but also a fantastic human being.
"Future captain, maybe of England and Manchester United.”
Solsjkaer has already made him his No. 1 striker during his 18 months in charge despite some calls for the club to sign a more experienced and established striker to lead the line.
Rashford has a team-high 14 goals in the Premier League this season, but hasn’t been seen in the famous red jersey since Jan. 15, when he hobbled off the field at Old Trafford during an FA Cup replay against Wolverhampton, holding his back.
Rashford likely would have missed the rest of the season, but the three-month hiatus means United has its leading striker back for the run-in, which starts on Friday with an away game at Tottenham.
With Paul Pogba also back fit after injury, Solskjaer has enviable attacking options for the remainder of the season, but also some dilemmas.
There is plenty of interest surrounding how Pogba and playmaker Bruno Fernandes, who has excelled since joining from Sporting Lisbon in January, play together in midfield.
Solskjaer has had two in-house 11 vs. 11 matches, as well as a friendly against West Bromwich Albion, to check on his players’ fitness and sharpness after lockdown.
United went into the break as one of the league’s form teams, with its 2-0 derby win over Manchester City days before the suspension arguably its best team performance of the season. It left United three points behind Chelsea in fifth place, which could yet secure Champions League qualification in light of City’s two-year ban from European competition that is currently under appeal.
United also has a very appealing set of fixtures over the next six weeks, including those against four of the bottom six in a six-game run from June 30 to July 18.
A victory at eighth-placed Tottenham, managed by former United manager Jose Mourinho and one of the team’s main rival for a Champions League berth, would be the perfect start.
It won't be an easy task with Spurs welcoming influential players Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, Moussa Sissoko and Steven Bergwijn back from injuries. And Mourinho will be hoping to get one back after his team lost the reverse fixture at Old Trafford earlier on in the campaign.
“The reality is we are now in a better position to where we were before,” said Mourinho.
“We got Harry and Sonny back, the players with the best stats in terms of scoring and assists. They give us this kind of attacking power.”
(With inputs from AP)
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