Jose Mourinho never actually used Marcus Rashford’s name when reviewing his injury-time winner against Hull City in the Premier League at the end of August. He referred to him simply as “The Kid”.
But the boy who has quickly become a man during 2016 proved his importance to the Manchester United cause once more on Wednesday by bailing them out of a tight spot to secure a 3-1 win over Northampton Town in the EFL Cup which snapped a three-game losing streak.
Just when Mourinho needed an experienced head on the pitch to guide his side through the choppy waters, the most inspirational contribution came from one of the youngest players in his matchday squad.
The return of Michael Carrick also had a big say in United progressing to the fourth round, with his composure helping them to cause their hosts a number of problems throughout the night, yet it was the 18-year-old who ultimately made the difference.
Carrick had an impact from the start and it was symbolic that United’s opener came from the vice-captain. Wayne Rooney’s indirect free-kick following a backpass offence was blocked but Carrick calmly fired the ball back into the far top corner.
From there United continued to control the pace of the game as Northampton remained on the back foot, but they did gradually begin to take their foot off the pedal as they somehow turned a comfortable position into a frantic struggle. In the 10 minutes before the interval they made it appear that they were the League One team and the Cobblers their esteemed opponents.