In the 57th minute, Marcus Rashford showed the best way to come back from a World Cup. The No.10 collected in the Manchester United half and, after turning on the afterburner, powered over Jordan Beyer along the right. The centre-back kept coasting and Rashford kept coming until slick footwork dazzled the Burnley man and in a flash Bailey Peacock-Farrell was beaten by a laser from a finish, on the angle, from inside the box.
For Rashford, a star for England at Qatar 2022 with three goals, it was United’s ninth goal this season – perhaps his finest for the club – and ensured Erik’s side ten Hag is in the quarter-finals. Against Championship leaders Vincent Kompany, they managed to be dominant and undercooked, with the latter coming as no surprise given their five-week layoff.
Of Rashford’s display, the manager said: “He was brilliant, a constant threat playing from the backline and was dangerous with his dribbling and movement. He runs so much. Eventually you get the advantage.
The 25-year-old offered his own opinion: “There’s space in front of you and you’re almost waiting for the right moment to pass, but the gap widened and luckily he got in.”
The Burnley manager had said his men would just run for the ball when they were out of possession, but that’s what they initially had United do as an illustrated break, with Ashley Barnes sending a cross wide from Johann Gudmundsson. When Bruno Fernandes slipped past Alejandro Garnacho, the youngster failed to beat an advancing Peacock-Farrell but United came to life. Further pressure ensued via a stolen corner in a crowd of players by the hiding Rashford.
After United’s last action – a 2-1 league win at Fulham – and before a reduced capacity of 62,000 due to ambulance strikes, Ten Hag had sent five World Cup returnees to Christian Eriksen, Casemiro, Rashford, Tyrell Malacia and Fernandes, despite illness have ruled out Harry Maguire, who remains a doubt for the league visit to Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.
Perhaps the rust was why Garnacho’s touch was clumsy when Anthony Martial pushed the ball past the Burnley defense and the winger kicked it too far in front of him as he headed in to Peacock-Farrell. United searched for their best rhythm and they sparkled when they found it.
Fernandes received in a central area and hooked the ball towards Aaron Wan-Bissaka whose jump was followed by the sweetest of volley crosses from the right, which was crushed by Eriksen. Ten Hag said: “The players are hungry after the World Cup break and it was great to see that team goal.”
United had swagger and were in firm ball-hogging mode, sapping the energy of those in blue as they had to keep chasing them. But, now, came a mini-hitback. On a counterattack, Barnes fed Manuel Benson, but he could only find Martin Dubravka’s side netting. The same player did better with a darted effort that left the Slovak flying left to save and when, seconds later, Benson crossed, the keeper missed a regulation punch, the ball ricocheted off Rashford and, as he veered towards goal, Casemiro slipped away.
That’s also what the hapless Dubravka had to do when he mishandled the Brazilian’s back pass: he managed to stop the ball from rolling, but those weren’t confident contributions. United, perhaps deeming it wiser to operate at the other end, quickly spun and fired Martial, the No.9 pulling an acrobatic save from Peacock-Farrell.
The tie was still in play and so when Rashford found Scott McTominay and his attempt missed, there was a chance for all but killing Kompany’s men. Benson should then have equalized after McTominay passed him directly, but he fired wide.
Now came Rashford’s superb solo goal, but Burnley still refused to fold. Barnes was tackled by Gudmunsson but with Dubravka’s goal pleading, the striker missed – much to the delight of the home faithful. Substitute Antony nearly imitated Rashford in skating, but after cutting the inside of his favorite left foot he headed straight for Peacock-Farrell.
Towards the end Brandon Williams, who has the feisty attitude Ten Hag desires, entered for a first United appearance since May 2021, a loan spell at Norwich last season and an injury in this one the reasons for his long break .
The Dutchman will view this competition as a definitive route to breaking the club’s trophy drought that dates back to 2017, so progress here was a classic case of a job well done.