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Rashford hits United winner at Wolves after ‘disciplinary’ benching

WOLVEHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM (AFP) – Erik ten Hag insisted Marcus Rashford was back in favour after the Manchester United forward responded to his benching for missing a team meeting with the late strike that clinched a 1-0 win at Wolves on Saturday night.

United manager Ten Hag sprang a pre-match surprise when he revealed Rashford had been dropped because of an “internal disciplinary” issue that broke “our rules”.

The 25-year-old had been in excellent form this season and also scored three goals for England at the World Cup, so United fans were startled to learn of his demotion.

But Rashford’s exile only lasted until half-time when he was sent on by Ten Hag in a move that proved the catalyst for United to seal their fifth successive win in all competitions.

Rashford looked determined to prove Ten Hag was wrong to drop him as he rampaged through the Wolves defence to score his 11th goal in all competitions this season and his third in three appearances since the World Cup.

In a post-match television interview, Rashford said he was disappointed to be left out after missing the meeting because he over-slept.

But both Ten Hag and Rashford appear ready to bury the hatchet and move on.

“We draw a line under it and move on. I was a little bit late for a meeting. I overslept but it can happen,” Rashford said.

Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford scores his side’s opening goal during the English Premier League match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux Stadium. PHOTO: AP

“Obviously it’s team rules. I made a mistake. That can happen. I’m obviously disappointed not to play but I understand the decision and I’m happy we managed to win anyway. I think I’m in a good place.”

Ten Hag added, “It’s good after the decision. I think it happens often. Coming in he was bright, lively, he scored a goal and that is the right reaction,” Ten Hag said.

“Of course (that is the end of the matter). Everyone has to match the rules. This is the right answer.”

United climbed into fourth place in the Premer League, two points above Tottenham who have a game in hand, as they bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

“I was not happy at half-time and I told them with this attitude they will not win this game and everyone had to give 10 per cent more,” Ten Hag said.

Julen Lopetegui’s Wolves remain in the relegation zone after the Spaniard’s first defeat in three games since replacing the sacked Bruno Lage.

Having come in to replace Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho should have put United ahead in the 16th minute when he pounced on Nelson Semedo’s woeful backpass.

Garnacho has earned rave reviews for his impressive form this season, but the 18-year-old Argentine showed a lack of composure to shoot straight at Jose Sa.

Rashford was introduced for Garnacho at the start of the second half and made an immediate impact, setting up Bruno Fernandes for a blocked shot that was grabbed by Sa before Antony could apply the finishing touch.

In a rare Wolves threat, Ruben Neves’ 25-yard free-kick curled over the United wall and forced a fine save from David De Gea.

But United finally made the breakthrough in the 76th minute.

Taking possession wide on the left flank, Rashford played a one-two with Fernandes and showed his desire by holding off the Wolves defence before drilling a low shot past Sa from six yards.

Ten Hag’s fist-pumping celebration suggested Rashford was no longer persona non grata.

Rashford thought he had scored again moments later, but this time his close-range finish was disallowed for a clear handball.

An eventful afternoon for Rashford also featured a yellow card for kicking the ball away to waste time in the closing minutes.

That was one indiscretion Ten Hag might be willing to overlook after his match-winning contribution.

In a dramatic denouement, Wolves striker Raul Jimenez almost stole Rashford’s thunder with a powerful stoppage-time header, but De Gea parried to preserve the points.