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Marcus Rashford must lead the charge in Zlatan Ibrahimovic's absence

Saturday 22nd April 2017
Manchester United have been forced to deal with a number of tough situations in recent years, but none will have hurt as much as the news that talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic could miss the remainder of the season. Can Marcus Rashford step up and shine?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked up a knee injury in Manchester United's Europa League win over Anderlecht and the prognosis is bleak, with the mercurial Swede set to miss out on the Premier League's climax, in addition to his side's European adventure.

The 35-year-old has been in outstanding form for the club this season, scoring 28 goals in all competitions. While many cited that his age could be a detrimental factor to his time in Manchester, it has been anything but, with the forward continuing his impressive scoring ability.

With the striker potentially ruled out though, Manchester United desperately need somebody to step up, something that youngster Marcus Rashford will surely be relishing.
Under manager Jose Mourinho, Rashford has not had everything his own way. He has been played up-front, out-wide and not at all this term, with a number of more senior players preferred at different points this season. It has been a frustrating, but successful season for the youngster.

When he has been called upon, he has been outstanding, with recent weeks in particular portraying this. Against Chelsea, Rashford was preferred up-front with Jesse Lingard, and they caused the Blues all kind of problems. Rashford scored and his side eventually came out 2-0 winners.

Against Anderlecht too, he took his chance as the striker following Ibrahimovic's injury, scoring the winner. However, it was not just a scrambled shot, it was an outstanding show of maturity and ability. Marouane Fellaini's knock-down fell to Rashford who took a touch while holding off his man, before back-heeling it into space and taking a strike on his weaker foot, which flew into the bottom corner.

While many have already earmarked his ability, it was yet another timely display of his potential in the competition he made his name in last season.

For Rashford, he is likely to start against Burnley at the weekend, with United still battling for a spot in the Champions League next term.

Their opponents are likely to look to sit deep and hit United on the break, which doesn't really suit the quick forward, who is more comfortable running in behind the opposition. However, it constitutes the perfect chance for Rashford to succeed where Ibrahimovic failed.

In the reverse fixture, Ibrahimovic and his teammates failed to find a way past Burnley and an inspired Tom Heaton. It would speak volumes for Rashford if he were to lead United to a big three points against their stubborn opponents.

All things considered though, it has been a hugely beneficial season for Marcus Rashford. He has trained and played alongside one of the game's greatest forwards, while he has scored a number of crucial goals throughout the campaign as his development continues.

He is now able to look forward to a semi-final in the Europa League against Celta Vigo, along with seven very competitive Premier League games. Rashford's rise has been unprecedented and inspiring. The Manchester United youngster will be hoping his career continues to follow on that upward curve.
Ben Darvill

I graduated with an upper second class degree in English and Creative writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. I have been a freelance sports writer since leaving University and have written for a number of online websites. I am a Chelsea and England fan but I enjoy watching any team play as I have an intense passion for football.

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