Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag praised the “unstoppable” Marcus Rashford after his brilliant goal against Nottingham Forest helped his team take a step towards the Carabao Cup final.
Rashford scored for the 10th time in 10 games since the World Cup, leading United to a 3-0 sweeping semi-final win in the first leg at City Ground.
The 25-year-old is now the country’s out-of-state player, and after running 50 yards, he turned into a close post, creating an instant individual shine.
Wout Weghorst’s first goal for the club and Bruno Fernandes’ final kick mean that only a miraculous comeback in the rematch next week at Old Trafford could stop United from reaching the February final.
Rashford, who has so far scored in every round of the League Cup, could push United into the silvers if he continues in this form, which will end a five-year cup drought.
Ten Hag said: “There are more players who are playing really well, but I’m happy with Marcus’ performance and development.
“He’s been growing since the start of the season and he’s continuing to do that, and that’s what we should aim for with him, and he’s responsible for that, to keep this process going.
“If he’s in that mood, he’s unstoppable and it’s the team’s job to get him in the right positions.
“Also don’t have, we have a plan but lastly the intuition of an individual like Rashy is to create luck with creativity.”
The Dutch driver was also pleased to see rookie Weghorst break his duck after his move from Burnley on loan in January.
“It’s always important for forwards[to score]goals,” he said. “I think he did a great job with the pressure, goals and moves at Crystal Palace and Arsenal.
“At Crystal Palace, Bruno’s goal was part of that as he made the right move towards the front post.
“Rashford’s goal at Arsenal was part of that by dragging the midfield in half but the forwards are there to score and they are not happy when they can’t score.
“So it’s important for him to score that goal, for his self-confidence. And that’s one of the ways to score – in the box, present.”
Forest, whose League Cup history is as rich as that of United, which has won four titles in 12 years under Brian Clough, will see this as a missed opportunity to go to Old Trafford next week with something to hold onto.
They had a strong first half as Sam Surridge scored an disallowed goal and Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson had good opportunities.
But Cooper knows the next week’s mission is nearly impossible.
“A truly disappointing leaderboard. “The last thing you want to do in a two-legged relationship is go to Old Trafford for the rematch with our results tonight.”
“This is the most disappointing thing. Forms of goals, from their timing to how they arise.
“Rashford is one of the most fit players in the country, so it was disappointing to let him do what he does.
“Going 2-0 to Old Trafford, you never know, it would be hard but you never know, so it’s disappointing to surrender late and not accept what we’ve been through tonight.
“I think the next week is going to be incredibly difficult. We have to be very professional to give ourselves an opportunity and set some goals and at the same time make sure we come out in a better place than we entered the game.