MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - In Manchester United's first competitive match since their acrimonious split with Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford delivered a thrilling performance and sensational goal against Burnley to show he can be their top striker for years to come.
Fresh from scoring three times for England at the World Cup, Rashford put in a tireless display on the right of United's attack and sealed their passage into the League Cup quarter-finals with one of his finest goals on Wednesday.
Picking the ball up deep in United's half, Rashford burst down the right wing and took on two defenders before firing into the far bottom corner in another demonstration that the 25-year-old is back to his best after a miserable previous campaign.
The striker's confidence appeared to be badly knocked after he missed a penalty in England's shootout defeat by Italy in last year's European Championship final and Ronaldo's surprise return to United also had an impact on Rashford's form.
He started only 18 of United's 49 matches in all competitions while scoring only five goals as they ended the season without a trophy and their lowest points total since the Premier League began in 1992. He was also dropped by England.
But as Ronaldo became marginalised this term under new boss Erik ten Hag, leading to his contract being terminated last month, Rashford rediscovered his former influence, starting 16 of 22 matches in all competitions and scoring nine goals.
He was recalled by England manager Gareth Southgate for the World Cup and scored against Iran and twice versus Wales, although was only a late substitute in the quarter-final defeat by France.
Rashford said he had already put England's exit behind him, saying after the win over Burnley: "There is no time to feel sorry for yourself. You need to pick up results and thankfully we did that."
Ten Hag, meanwhile, praised Rashford for his performance.
"I think he invested a lot with runs behind the defending line and he scored a great goal on the dribble; a great finish. I think he is in great form and I hope he can keep his focus,” said the Dutchman.
"His performances are improving a lot from game to game, he's a continued threat and does a lot of defending work. I hope and expect him to keep going with his performance level."
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)