Marcus Rashford sparkles in debut, propelling Man United past Midtjylland
Manchester United responded perfectly to the threat of one of the most humiliating cup eliminations in their history, dismissing Denmark's FC Midtjylland 5-1. This being Man United, their victory did not come without its complications: They lost Anthony Martial to injury, then fell a goal behind and saw Juan Mata miss a penalty just before half-time. However, they went through thanks to excellent performances from Memphis Depay -- who was outstanding throughout -- and Marcus Rashford, the 18-year old debutante who produced perhaps the moment of the season with two goals at the game's most vital point.
A match that threatened to be a moment of mourning for Louis van Gaal instead became a procession, and though Midtjylland were oddly subdued, United overwhelmed them from start to finish. This was as eventful, and as entertaining a showing as Van Gaal's men have produced all year.
Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Sergio Romero, 7 -- Played the ball out from the back with confidence, punched clear with authority when called upon and not at fault for the visitor's goal. Another competent showing.
DF Guillermo Varela, 8 -- Overlapped with intelligence throughout, supplying dangerous crosses and pressing his opposite man high up the field. Was closely involved in two of United's goals, and his excellent movement was a key feature of this win.
DF Michael Carrick, 6 -- The midfielder has never looked comfortable at centre-back, and was too easily sidestepped by Pione Sisto just before the Dane's fine strike. Distributed the ball well from the back, though.
DF Daley Blind, 7 -- Like Carrick, he was exposed for Sisto's opening strike, and for a time it looked as though that error might be crucial. Yet he later redeemed himself with the quality of his passing. As ever, showed good ambition in getting the ball forward, regularly stepping up the field and playing passes into the feet of attacking midfielders.
DF Joe Riley, 8 -- A fine showing from the teenager, who was playing only his second match for the first team, and who got forward with the intent and movement of a winger from the opening whistle.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 7 -- The only blemish on an assured performance was his miss early in the second half from a few yards out, at a time when United truly needed it. Otherwise, he was a typically muscular presence in midfield, breaking down play at every opportunity and even going close with a bicycle kick. Goals are the final element that he must add to his game.
MF Ander Herrera, 7 -- He thrashed home a penalty for his team's fourth goal, a cathartic moment after he had missed an excellent chance with a clear header earlier in the second half. On the whole, he was very good against the Danish champions, pressing the ball with notable urgency and setting the tempo so high that the visitors eventually wilted.
MF Juan Mata, 7 -- A mixed but ultimately triumphant evening for the playmaker, who hit the most lacklustre of penalties on the stroke of half-time -- it was parried around the post by Mikkel Andersen -- but whose smart passing and prompting were essential in forcing Midtjylland back the entire match. Supplied a superb cutback for Rashford's crucial first goal.
MF Jesse Lingard, 7 -- Was unfortunate not to earn a penalty in the second half -- he was booked for a fall that the referee thought too extravagant -- and was not too much of a direct goal threat. However, his pressing, like that of Herrera, set the tone for a dominant United performance.
MF Memphis Depay, 9 -- He was in his element, showing his full array of skills even before the game was clinched, going past defenders with complete ease in a game that, before kick-off, carried significant pressure. The opponents were extremely poor on the night, but without the Dutchman's swagger they would have been a much tougher proposition, and his goal to round off the night -- a vicious, skidding drive from outside the box -- will hopefully be a tremendous boost to his confidence. Unplayable from first minute to last.
FW Marcus Rashford, 9 -- Two goals on his debut from a forward who was named on the bench only an hour before kickoff, and who stepped calmly into the gulf left by Martial. Both of his finishes came from clever movement in the area, and his celebration with the crowd for his first goal was perhaps -- along with Martial's debut goal against Liverpool -- one of the moments of the season.
DF Regan Poole, NR -- Came on for his debut but far too late to make an impression.
DF Marcos Rojo, NR -- A late, quiet and welcome return from injury for the Argentina international.
MF Andreas Pereira, NR -- Was not able to get involved, through no fault of his own; by that point of the game, most of the attack was going through Memphis, to devastating effect.
Musa Okwonga is a football author, poet, musician, broadcaster and social commentator. He is on Twitter @Okwonga.