Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was proud of the battling qualities displayed by Marcus Rashford as he played through the pain to help Manchester United beat Granada.
Troubled by a niggling ankle problem, Rashford opened the scoring at the Nuevo Los Carmenes on Thursday, latching onto Victor Lindelof’s long pass before finishing with composure.
The goal took Rashford to 20 for the season in all competitions, making him the first United player to hit double figures in consecutive campaigns since Wayne Rooney 11 years ago.
The England forward, who was taken off 10 minutes after scoring in last weekend’s 2-1 Premier League win over Brighton and Hove Albion, battled on against Granada before being substituted with a little over 25 minutes left.
Solskjaer, who hopes Rashford will be fit to face Tottenham on Sunday, was delighted with Rashford’s impact against stubborn opposition.
“Marcus, fantastic goal,” he said. “Great pass by Victor, great run and the skill to bring the ball down like this, we’ve seen it a few times before, and it’s a top, top quality goal.
“It’s the same thing as before, he’s not recovered from it. Hopefully, it’s not got any worse from this. He lasted 60 or 70 against Brighton, 65 now, so hopefully he’s ready. I think he should be ready for Sunday.”
When asked if he ever told former manager Alex Ferguson he was fully fit to play when struggling with injury, Solskjaer replied: “Yeah, I probably did! I did a few times. It’s not like I couldn’t perform, but I probably knew I wasn’t at 100 per cent. But when are you at 100 per cent as a footballer? I think that’s very rare.
“We know he’s someone we have to protect, and he was ready, and he was vital for us today.”
8 – Marcus Rashford is the first English player to score eight goals for @ManUtd in European competition in a single season (excluding qualifiers) since Bobby Charlton in 1964-65. Footsteps. #UEL pic.twitter.com/pskfaBm3OI
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 8, 2021
While comfortable in defence, United offered little threat of a second goal until Bruno Fernandes scored his 19th penalty for the club after being pushed in the face by Yan Eteki.
The Portugal star, who was struggling with his vision in one eye after the foul, squeezed a shot beneath goalkeeper Rui Silva in the 90th minute.
With Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay suspended for the second leg after receiving yellow cards, Solskjaer was relieved to be heading back to Old Trafford with a more commanding advantage.
“It was an important goal, the second one. A 1-0 lead, losing three players, is not a good position to be in,” he said.
“I don’t think we deserved those five yellow cards, but that’s happened. I’m delighted with the result, of course.
“[The second goal] is so vital away from home and we’ve created a good starting point for ourselves next week.
“Scoring with one eye is a skill! He drives the team and drives himself. He’s got such enthusiasm and hunger to win and to do well. I’ve played in teams with a lot stronger personalities than that, to be honest.
“That’s the way for us to improve and reach the next level: always demand more, and more, and more.”
Shaw was taken off at half-time, but Solskjaer added of the left-back: “I had to protect Luke, but I think and hope he should be okay for the weekend.”