Marcus Rashford has been the talk of the country off the pitch and once again displayed his prowess on it.
In a week when the England international has rallied support in his bid to take on the government in the fight to provide free meals for deprived schoolchildren, he also served up a wonderful hat-trick in the Champions League.
Told to “stick to football” and accused of “virtue signalling” by some, Rashford displayed his powers at multi-tasking – showing it is possible to be a campaigner at the same time as a goalscorer – by coming off the bench to net his first senior hat-trick for Manchester United in the 5-0 win over RB Leipzig.
The 22-year-old did not arrive until just after the hour mark, but then netted three times in 16 minutes in a virtuoso display of clinical finishing.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “Marcus has showed he can keep focusing on what’s important on and off the pitch at the moment. He did really well today coming off the bench.”
It has been quite a month for the striker, honoured with an MBE and seeing his petition to end child food poverty surpassing one million signatures.
At 3-0 up and with a chance to score a hat-trick, Rashford further showed his generosity of spirit by handing the ball over to Anthony Martial for the Frenchman to score from the spot.
Asked if there had been a discussion, Rashford said: “A little bit, a little bit. I feel confident with Anthony taking them as well. So no problem.”
But there was still time remaining for Rashford to get his third and become only the second United player – after his boss Solskjaer – to net a treble as a substitute.
“I think the manager wanted me to up the tempo,” he said. “That for us means going forward. There were definitely spaces there.”
Former Premier League striker Chris Sutton called Rashford “a brilliant footballer and a brilliant person” on BBC Radio 5 Live, while the player’s campaign has been supported by his club, who plan to distribute 5,000 cooked meals to local schoolchildren this week.
Sutton described the Red Devils forward as “already a top, top player”, adding that they “looked much a better team when he came on”.
At the end of the game, a man who is dedicated to improving people’s lives had no fans to raise his hands in celebration to, receiving only a pat on the back from his team-mates, before walking down the tunnel with the match ball.
All three goals came in front of a deserted Stretford End, which would ordinarily have been bouncing with the return of Champions League football to Old Trafford.
Ex-United defender Rio Ferdinand described Rashford as being “head and shoulders above Leipzig”.
He added: “He is on fire. He’s been on the front of the papers for all the right reasons, and tomorrow he’ll be on the back of them.
“It’s like being in the playground with a sixth-former against the younger boys and he just bullies everyone – too quick and too strong.
“He made some defenders, who we were raving about before the game, look like schoolboys tonight.”
Schoolboy defenders or school dinners – Rashford, it seems, has it all covered.
What you said on #bbcfootball:
Mark: Marcus Rashford is a boss of a man and a boss of a player.
Chris, Belfast: It’ll be ‘Sir Marcus Rashford ‘ by Christmas at this rate!
Aleksandar Todorov: Marcus Rashford! What a player and a great human being. Absolutely world class performance and worthy of the match ball. Top class!
Kenny Kong: Rashford continues to do the business for club & country, the Man U striker can do no wrong right now.