Undoubtedly, 2023 has been Manchester United attacker Marcus Rashford’s year. The 25-year-old has not only improved in terms of goal-scoring but has also taken his overall game to a whole new level.

He has developed into a key player for Manchester United, becoming the club’s main source of goals and the man for the big occasions. Rashford has always been tipped for great things, but this season, he’s living up to the billing and seems to be getting better with each game.

Manchester United will once again be pinning their hopes on the England international when they take on Barcelona in the UEFA Europa League knockout playoffs first leg on Thursday (February 16).

The Camp Nou hasn’t been a favourable hunting ground for the Red Devils in recent years, but with their in-form forward, United will fancy their chances.

Rashford in the form of his life for Manchester United

Rashford has scored 21 goals across competitions this season and is on course to record his best-ever campaign in terms of output, having also provided eight assists.

That’s 29 goal involvements, and we’re only halfway through the season. Rashford’s form is one of the key reasons why Manchester United are still in contention for four trophies.

He has bailed them out more times than any player. He’ll need to carry his form into Thursday’s game against Barcelona if Ten Hag’s side are going to stand any chance of walking away with a favourable result.

Rashford’s versatility has also been a weapon Ten Hag has often used to exploit his opponents, as the 25-year-old can play on either flank, as well as up front. Barcelona may boast one of the meanest defences in Europe at the moment. Jules Kounde, Ronald Araujo and co., though, will be seriously tested by Rashford, who currently seems unstoppable.

Barcelona boss wary of Rashford threat

Very few players have been better than Rashford in 2023, and he’s already among the best in England after taking the Premier League by storm. However, the English forward still has a lot to prove on the European stage, and he can start by helping United win at Barcelona.

Should he perform creditably against the Spanish giants like he’s done all season, it’ll be a huge statement to affirm his status as one of the best players in the world currently. It won’t be easy, though, considering Barcelona’s impressive defensive record this season.

The Blaugrana have been racking up clean sheets for fun even though Xavi remains wary of Rashford’s threat, as he told Goal:

“He’s (Rashford) one of the most dangerous forwards in Europe. He’s fast, he’s one-on-one and we’ll have to watch him a lot. He’s one of the best in Europe, without a doubt. We have assessed what they are doing. Rashford, (Alejandro) Garnacho, (Jadon) Sancho and (Wout) Weghorst might be a reference. The transitions are very quick.”

Whether Manchester United will beat Barcelona or not depends on how well Rashford plays. He will have every motivation to slay Xavi’s side, as qualification is not the only thing on the line. The forward also has the chance to make a big statement.