Rashford carries United's present and future hopes
Homegrown striker, after Celta Vigo heroics, represents Man United's present and future glory
Eight years on, Manchester United finally appear to have found Cristiano Ronaldo's successor.
They could not be more different but Marcus Rashford is increasingly proving himself to be the closest incarnation of the Real Madrid forward for the Red Devils since his 2009 departure.
If Ronaldo's midweek heroics in the Champions League semi-final had left United feeling somewhat short-changed by his £80 million (S$145.5m) sale, that blow has been softened by the emergence of his heir apparent from within the Old Trafford ranks.
Rashford remains a Boy's Own fairy tale in an era of egotism; a 19-year-old whose unrelenting passion for football has conquered the barriers of both age and injury.
"Class" was how Ole Gunnar Solksjaer described him - and the Norwegian knows more than a thing or two about that particular subject - after United edged out Celta Viga 1-0 in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final yesterday morning (Singapore time) .
Solksjaer, the mastermind of the Red Devils' greatest European triumph in 1999, also played alongside the last precocious talent to seize both the mantle and headlines with remarkable composure.
A young Ronaldo learned at United that there was no fast-track route in the pursuit of self-improvement other than on the training pitch every day.
Rashford's moment of realisation was never in danger of arriving. He knew what to do from the offset.
Jose Mourinho was another who saw the Portugal captain at close quarters as he strived to become one of the best players of all-time. Hailing his latest totem's mentality bore similarities with his praise for the current Ballon d'Or winner before their relationship soured.
Rashford is not just a mere goal-getter, as he proved again yesterday morning. On various fronts, it was a performance for which Ronaldo himself would have been proud of.
His beguiling free-kick which eluded an otherwise formidable Sergio Alvarez at the Estadio de Balaidos showed flashes of the European champion's trademark swagger. His blistering pace left Celta's defence flat-footed and overawed.
Right now, Rashford represents both United's future and his manager's only true shot at happiness. That alone should already make his omission from duty against Arsenal a foregone conclusion for Mourinho.
Playing through the pain barrier may have helped United take a step closer to the Champions League.
But, risking him against the Gunners will be a huge gamble, with the second leg against Celta coming up next week.
Much as Mourinho would love to get the better of Arsene Wenger at the Emirates, forsaking his side's pursuit of an EPL top-four finish has become a necessary evil.
Relying on Wayne Rooney to step into the void against Celta, should disaster strike with Rashford, may jeopardise those aspirations of a return to the European elite.
Uncertainty over whether Zlatan Ibrahimovic will extend his contract have underlined the importance of keeping United's home-grown striker out of harm's way ahead of a potential crowning moment in the Europa League final in Stockholm.
Mourinho will be tempted to outwit Wenger, his longest-standing foe, no less.
But, Rashford must be spared as part of a bigger picture.