Louis van Gaal was sent a timely message by Manchester United youngsters Nick Powell and Marcus Rashford as they both netted in the 6-1 thrashing of Leicester City in the Under-21 Premier League on Monday 14 November at Leigh Sports Village. Powell netted goals either side of the break before Rashford lashed in late on to cap a fine display.
England Under-21 international Powell has made his first senior appearances of the season in the club's last two games but staked a claim for a starting berth amid the continued absence of captain Wayne Rooney, with two fine finishes. Powell buried Sean Goss's corner after 11 minutes to open the scoring and set the hosts on their way.
Devonte Redmond netted the first of two with a drive from outside the box before James Weir tucked home a third after Leicester stopper Dion Henry could only parry Josh Harrop's effort. Redmond claimed his second after half-time after rounding Henry prior to Powell finding the net with a simple header from six yards out as United sensed a heavy victory.
After Harry Panayiotou pulled one back for the visitors, Rashford – a 74th minute substitute – took centre stage with his first goal at Under-21 level, smashing the ball into the roof of the net upon receiving a lofted pass from Powell. With the United senior team the second-lowest scorers in the top half of the Premier League ahead of the visit of Norwich City, the pair took this opportunity with both hands.
With speculation rife that Van Gaal may recall James Wilson from his season-long loan at Brighton & Hove Albion after the 20-year-old scored for a second straight game against Derby County, Powell and Rashford's intervention comes at an opportune time. The 18-year-old Rashford is held in particularly high esteem and academy coach Paul McGuinness feels the player could mirror former United striker Rudd van Nistelrooy's success if he develops a killer instinct.
"Marcus has done very well and we're getting him to be more focused on the goals now," McGuinness told ManUtd.com. "He's improved a lot and is ready for a step up as well. I think he can play in all the teams now – the Under-21s, Under-19s and Under-18s and so on. But we've done a lot of work with him. Particularly Colin Little, who assists me, has done a lot of work with him.
"Colin had a long career in the lower divisions, scoring a lot of goals, so he's passing on his experience. Marcus's recent goal for the Under-18s at Everton – in the way he turned his body to face forward to receive the pass behind the defence and the toe-poke finish – came straight from his work on the training ground. It was pleasing to see.
"He's working hard on those things and getting rewards. He's starting to understand that part of his game and needs to now get a real goal addiction. He needs to score every type of goal. He can score unbelievable goals, dribbling past three defenders, but he needs to be more like Ruud van Nistelrooy where it goes in off his knee, or comes back off the bar or the keeper and he puts in the rebound. Real goalscorer's goals. But Marcus is working hard at it."