Marcus Rashford is sliding on his knees, water fizzing from his boots as he rides across the Parc des Princes turf. Behind him is Mason Greenwood, all 17 years of him, charging after his teammate with a grin on his face. In the background limbs point manically in every direction as Fred, Tahith Chong and Diogo Dalot display various stages of delirium.
On the most definitive night yet of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's nascent tenure at Manchester United, this photo taken moments after Rashford’s winning penalty seemed to capture so many aspects of the magical touch that the Norwegian has brought to the club.
A few minutes earlier, the question “who is Tahith Chong” was busily rising on Google trends all over the world. The bushy-haired teenager was making only his third appearance and his first in the Champions League. Meanwhile Greenwood, still a child, had been thrown into the fray for his Manchester United debut. It was a mark of Solskjaer’s faith in United's next generation but also of something more significant, an almost philosophical symbol, like the manager was reaching back through time to grasp another long-lost piece of United’s identity.
In their own way, Dalot and Fred feel a significant part of the picture too. They were the headline signings of Jose Mourinho’s summer transfer activity after much wrangling between manager and board, but never quite settled in those opening months under the Portuguese.
Neither played outstandingly here, yet perhaps that is the point: that beyond the startling transformation of Paul Pogba and Rashford we are beginning to appreciate the more subtle impacts of Solskjaer: the brooding confidence of Romelu Lukaku, the raw talent of Andreas Pereira, the basic competence of Victor Lindelof.
It was a night when Fred and Dalot played their part in a historic United performance away in Europe in a way that seemed impossible under Mourinho. Where one of the world’s most decorated managers struggled to raise a tune from his star signings, the manager of Molde succeeded.
And then there’s Rashford, front and centre of the image. At times Mourinho seemed to treat him like a troublesome teenager, but Solskjaer has treated him like a man – the man: main striker, top goalscorer, leading the line. So when a last-minute penalty came along for a place in the Champions League quarter-finals, Rashford had no doubt he would take it, even if he had never taken a United penalty before.
He dispatched it ferociously and then sped towards the corner. And as some of the next generation of United's proud academy tradition raced over, Rashford – sliding across the grass, biceps bulging, roaring into the Parisian night – was perhaps the ultimate symbol of Solskjaer’s United: young, talented and utterly fearless.
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