Gotta say, I’ve been watching Marcus Rashford’s assist for United the other week quite a lot.
It’s just ridiculous, a thing of beauty, and yet nobody would remember it if the cross had bobbled up over the boot of an incoming Pogba.
It’s one of those where the goal, the actual putting-the-ball-in-the-net bit means little more than promoting the moment from the blurry YouTube compilation scrapheap. It’s a full stop. The goal’s just the little cap in the Smarties tube to prevent the good stuff spilling out to ruin all over the floor. It’s... well, you see what I’m getting at.
So we wanted to create a running thread of a few our of favourite assists in recent (and, to be honest, some not so recent) memory. And here it is:
Redondo v Man United
Martial v Real Madrid
What is it about Real Madrid playing Man United that creates fantastic assists? Maybe something to do with the two marketing behemoths sacrificing a full back or two to fertilise the narrative of a nonexistent rivalry which can be leveraged for profit in marquee friendlies in fame-hungry Petrostates? Or maybe Big Players just like doing Big Things in Big Matches? Six of one, if we’re honest... (Here Martial goes full PlayStation, a Rasher precursor that’s so ridiculous it didn’t even matter that it’s a pre-season game. It doesn’t matter at all.)
Bergkamp v Juventus
Never knew that this move starts with the referee getting much too close to play and tackling Edgar Davids. Always nice when something that brilliant starts off with something so stupid: but away they go, moving through the Juve midfield, until it reaches Bergkamp. On the edge of the box, the man does what amounts to, like, six turns in a very tight hexagon before schloop-ing the ball through a tiny gap between centre half and full back.
And now a story in two parts:
I: Gerrard v Fulham
II: Verón v Birmingham City
Popping up as the ball squirms away from a tackle, Gerrard screwwwwing away as he moved towards the ball, whipping his whole body around it to currrrrrrrrve around the Fulham defence. Sturridge – before his body said “Nope”—finished it off although nobody really cares about that bit: the ball was fucking perfect. And then there’s Verón—in Man United form—coming up fast on the twilight of his career but still saving enough in the ol’ brain-tank to do something ludicrous every now and again. Bouncing deep inside the United half as Birmingham retreat, hitting both through and across the ball, a volley clean and true, the Argentine expertly bisects the defence. Where have the defenders gone? They’ve gone home, leaving David Beckham to try and outdo it with a chip of his own. The fact that one of the all-time great Becks goals in the Premier League is largely forgotten because of what came before it is quite a compliment. Which pass it better? Honestly, I don’t know. I keep going backwards and forwards on it: Gerrard’s needs to get it through a lot of men, but it’s on the floor and the technique is arguably easier. Verón has a whacking great gap to hit it in, but it’s on the volley (or half-volley, technically, though he hits it flush) and has absolutely perfect topspin and a gorgeous veering-to-the-right trajectory. Like picking which of your kids is your favourite: you know (you obviously know) but it’s probably for the best you don’t say anything definitive.
Meggiorini v Lazio
On the stretch, a diving back-heel half-volley, you say? Yes. Okay, yes.
Draxler v Al Saad
Look how proud Raúl is of his young charge. He’d barely been in the team before that, had Drax, and he goes and does that against the team Raúl is about to join. It’s a piece of skill where, if you’re the other team and you grabbed Draxler by the ears and went “LISTEN, YOU LITTLE CUNT” nobody could blame you. It’s madness.
Payet v Watford
As a West Ham fan, seeing Dimitri Payet doing stuff like this is physically painful for me. I don’t even care that he had one fantastic season, a brilliant Euros, and then came back filled with crème brûlée and apathy, waddling about the pitch in a strop until we finally let him go to Marseille. He’s happy there, now. And, yes, I miss him; I miss him doing stuff like this all the time—a driving run, a breakneck cutback, a sublime rabona—but you can’t let it get you down, can you? You just cannot let it get you down.
Ronaldinho v Albacete
There’s handing over the baton and there’s Ronaldinho, only just cresting his wave of sheer and stupid brilliance, perfectly scooping a ball over a defence and into the path of Messi, the greatest player of all time, to score the player’s first ever Barcelona goal.
Özil v Aston Villa
We’ve not always been the biggest fans of the German playmaker (“Why isn’t he running? Isn’t he supposed to move around?”) but you can’t say he’s not good for a handful of truly outstanding assist each season. This one is our pick of the bunch. (The killer pass for Kolašinac just recently doesn’t count, obviously, as it’s a pre-assist which is not a thing.)
Pogba v Cameroon
Pogba switching it from right to left until he has a bit of room, curling one fifty yards right onto Giroud’s foot for a relatively easy finish. Almost like Paul Pogba was very good THIS WHOLE TIME and José Mourinho was the problem.
But then, there’s Becks’ version...
Beckham v Zaragoza
Fuck off. Fuck. Off.
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