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20th Apr 2017

Jose Mourinho explains why Marcus Rashford has been taking free kicks lately

Add set-piece delivery to his repertoire

Darragh Murphy

Is there anything that kid can’t do?

After putting an end to his recent goal drought, Marcus Rashford has recaptured the form that initially saw him lauded as one of the most exciting young talents to come out of Manchester United’s academy in years.

Rashford got the scoring started in United’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea last Sunday in what will likely be manager Jose Mourinho’s most satisfying result at Old Trafford to date. One look at Mourinho’s badge-beating as he left the pitch told you everything you needed to know about how he viewed the win over his former side.

Rashford was one of many in red whose performances stood out last weekend, alongside Ander Herrera and Marcos Rojo, but there was one aspect of his game that intrigued supporters.

More accustomed to watching the 19-year-old run at full-backs from the left flank and attempt to cut inside for a shot at goal, fans were treated to another weapon in the youngster’s arsenal as he was entrusted with the majority of set-pieces against Chelsea.

Why was Rashford suddenly United’s go-to free kick taker?

Mourinho has discussed the decision in an interview with MUTV.

“Marcus is trustable,” the manager said. “Even for the second goal, his free kick was really high, impossible to score from a header because it was to what we call the third post – not the first or second post. But he’s always tense, he’s always fast, and you can always trust that [he will make] strong contact with the ball.

“The ball always goes with speed with him. With some other guys, the ball goes in the right spot but slower. Even if you win the duel in the air, it can be really difficult to score, so in this moment Marcus is one of the boys we trust. Because he’s so young, he’s able to keep developing that day after day; he’s always with one of the assistant coaches trying to make it even better.”

United host Anderlecht on Thursday night in the return leg of their Europa League quarter-final, with the tie finely poised at 1-1 from last week.

And Mourinho doesn’t want his players to be overconfident in spite of their impressive showing against the league leaders just four days ago.

“I don’t allow them [to get carried away],” Mourinho added. “I want these people to be calm, you know; I don’t like people to be in hell when the moment is bad and I don’t want people to be in paradise when the moment is good. There is no time for that. We played amazingly well, it was a great result and a good feeling for everyone, but now we play a crucial match.

“Maybe the final of the League Cup was bigger, because it was a day to bring a trophy, but this one now is to go to the semi-finals and either keep the dream alive or to finish. The result in the first leg was not phenomenal but it was positive – we are in a positive situation. When the referee starts the game, we are qualified in that moment, and we obviously have 90 minutes to keep that position.

“You know, my history and United’s history – which is much more important than mine – is to be in the Champions League all the time. That’s why United have never won the Europa League, and why I won it in the only year I played in the competition, back in 2002/03.

“We want to be in the Champions League, but since the beginning of the season, I keep saying ‘we are not’. We are in the Europa League – that’s the competition we can win. We’ve played 11 matches already, so let’s see if we can go to the final.”