Jesse Lingard is backing born-again Marcus Rashford to fill the goalscoring void left by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s season-ending injury at Manchester United.
With the Old Trafford club still reeling from the loss of their talismanic top scorer for the business end of the campaign, Lingard reckons it is time for the players Ibra has left behind to step up to the plate.
And the England midfielder reckons Rashford’s stunning return to form could not have come at a better time for Jose Mourinho.
Rashford, 19, has now found the target in three of United’s last four games – after going six months without a Premier League goal.
And with Mourinho’s men making a surge for a top-four finish and moving into the semi-finals of the Europa League, Lingard insisted: “Marcus has now has that confidence all strikers need to put the ball in the back of the net week in, week out.
“He is very mature. That six-month gap didn’t faze him because he is always going to score goals no matter what position he plays, as winger or up front.
“Marcus is so direct when he gets the ball. He gets the fans on their feet and that’s what they want to see.
“I think he has progressed a lot from last season, He is still young so he has got a lot of learning still to do, but as long as he keeps firing in the goals no-one can say anything bad to him.
“I just think it is natural with Marcus. Coming through the youth ranks, they tell you from a young age to be humble and stay humble, and I think he’s done that.
“He always keeps his feet on the ground.
“This is a team game and everyone now has to chip in as much as they can.
“It is now up to the other front players to produce. We have at least 10 games left so there are plenty of chances to put the ball into the back of the net.”
Ibrahimovic has scored 28 goals in his first season with United – including two in the EFL Cup Final and the winner in the Community Shield.
But Michael Carrick has played behind some lethal forwards during his 11 years at Old Trafford.
And the midfielder agrees with Lingard that Rashford will grasp the opportunity to prove that his meteoric rise last season was no fluke.
Carrick said: “I’m not going to come out with some crazy statement about Marcus’ future, but at the moment he’s doing very well and he’s also in the right place to develop.
- Frank Lampard sings the praises of “world class” 1:18
- Rival fans clash during Port Vale v Bolton0:45
- Anotnio Conte explains his team selection ahead o0:53
- Wilfried Zaha absolutely RUINS Patrick van Aanhol0:19
- FA Cup semi final: Chelsea v Tottenham joint XI3:02
- Ilie Nastase ejected and Jo Konta in tears in bad1:27
- Claudio Bravo’s son pulls off stunning save0:26
Jose Mourinho hints at Wayne Rooney return
“Sometimes we forget how young Marcus is and we shouldn’t underestimate the pressures of playing for this club every week.
“But Marcus has got a great attitude. He listens, he learns, he gives everything – and he’s now winning games for us again.
“You are going to have times when things might not go quite the way you want it – especially at 19 years of age.
“He has come on so fast and all of a sudden that expectation rises and goes through the roof.
“But I think he’s showing at the minute that he’s taken his game on a little bit and I’m sure he’ll continue to do that.”
United will hope that Rashford can succeed where Ibrahimovic failed when they face Burnley today.
Mourinho’s side blitzed the Clarets’ goal with 38 attempts when the two teams met at Old Trafford – but had to settle for a 0-0 draw.
Lingard knows they can’t afford to drop any more points if they are to overhaul Manchester City and Liverpool.
He said: “We should have been more ruthless in front of goal.
“We have had a lot of draws that should have been wins, especially at home, so we have got to be 100 percent right from now until the end of the season.”