Marcus Rashford’s 100th Manchester United goal was enough to beat West Ham and provide a fitting tribute to a special 85th anniversary for the Old Trafford club.
Across 4,163 consecutive games since 1937, United have had an unbroken run of having a player who came through their youth development programme either in their starting line-up or on the bench.
Rashford is the cream of the current crop and it was the England player who scored the winner against a determined West Ham side at Old Trafford.
The 24-year-old powered home a firm header seven minutes from the break after Christian Eriksen had curled over a superb far-post cross, making Rashford the 22nd United player to reach 100 goals.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s name is also on that list but having been given a starting spot because of Antony’s injury, the Portuguese failed to capitalise, wasting one excellent second-half opportunity after he had been sent running into the penalty area by Rashford.
In a thrilling finish, David de Gea made fantastic saves to deny Michail Antonio and Kurt Zouma, before, with almost the final move of the game, the goalkeeper surplus to Spanish requirements turned away a thunderous Declan Rice effort.
The result was enough for United to extend their unbeaten run to eight matches and go fifth in the table, while West Ham’s inconsistency outside European competition leaves them 13th, just three points above the relegation zone.
Rashford joins Man Utd’s 100 club
Rashford, whose goal came a day before his 25th birthday, could not be choosing a better time to find form given Gareth Southgate picks his England World Cup squad on 10 November.
It was the first time he has scored in successive games since January and, with a bit more luck, might have taken his overall tally for the season beyond seven.
Within the opening 16 minutes, he had three efforts. For the first, he had the confidence to nip in ahead of Ronaldo to take an early shot from Diogo Dalot’s low cross, which went wide. Then his low shot was blocked by Tomas Soucek before it could threaten the West Ham goal before, finally, Rashford’s header was saved by Lukasz Fabianski.
His landmark goal owed much to the patience of Dalot, who refused to be rushed into a quick throw by Casemiro and instead waited for Eriksen, who played a one-two with Bruno Fernandes before delivering the most brilliant of crosses.
Rashford drove another shot wide at the start of the second half but, apart from a Fred effort that came back off a post, the rest of the united heroes were at the other end of the pitch, with De Gea inspirational in keeping West Ham out.