Marcus Rashford has bounced back from last season’s nightmare to emerge as a Manchester United talisman once again. Erik ten Hag has restored the England international to a central attacking position, the same area of the pitch he was deployed in by Louis van Gaal during his time at Old Trafford. Now, the hope is he’ll kick on and realize his full potential…
Last season was a nightmare for everyone at Manchester United, from the managers to the players, the directors and the owners.
Richard Arnold said as much when he sat down with some supporters a couple of months ago, admitting he hated coming to Old Trafford when the mood was so sour.
At the beginning of the campaign, it looked as though United were heading for a repeat. Losses to Brentford and Brighton left a sour taste, especially the one against the former.
Rashford, during those opening two matches, resembled the same player who played under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick last term.
He netted just five goals across all competitions, a poor return for a player so immensely talented and capable of the sublime.
Yet Rashford has his swagger back. And it’s no coincidence that United will do well because, with four wins on the trot, they appear to be on an upward trajectory.
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The England international has, in the past, claimed he prefers playing on the left wing.
But Rashford has been a threat and a menace since being used as a No 9, although Ten Hag has also given him permission to operate in a free role at the tip of their attack.
Under Van Gaal, when the 24-year-old first burst onto the scene six years ago, Rashford was used as a No 9.
That forced Anthony Martial to move to the left, with the France international’s team-mate then scoring eight times from 18 appearances across all competitions.
Jose Mourinho then came along and deemed Rashford to be more than a winger.
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And it was a similar story under Solskjaer, with the Norwegian often deploying the forward on the left – with Martial and Mason Greenwood then occupying the other two areas.
Rashford, after the 4-0 defeat to Brentford, was invited to air his grievances along with the rest of the squad.
And he grilled Ten Hag on why he hadn’t been used centrally when the 52-year-old had vowed to give him a chance in that position during pre-season.
Since then, Rashford’s form has returned emphatically with the United star now starting to look like his old self.
He did well in the 1-0 win over Leicester on Thursday, providing the assist for Jadon Sancho to score.
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And Rashford was a huge threat for United against Arsenal on Sunday, with the academy graduate providing the assist for Antony’s opener before netting a late brace to give his side all three points.
Ten Hag has opted to copy compatriot Van Gaal by unleashing the 24-year-old as a No 9.
And that decision is already paying off. Now, the onus will be on the youngster to maintain his consistency and ensure he continues to produce the goods in the weeks and months ahead.
Speaking after the win over Arsenal, meanwhile, Rashford insisted his teammates should be proud as they battled their way to victory.
“The fact they’ve had such a good start to the season meant it was a big test for us today,” he told club media.
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“We showed up and we stood up to the challenge. We can all be proud of ourselves today.
“They’re a good team, they know the principles of play and they’re very good at it.
“They’re a good possession-based team, they offer a lot of difficulties with players dropping deep in the pockets and have some attacking threat so it was a difficult game and it’s what we expected so we [had] to be up for the challenge.
“In the second half we managed to exploit spaces and that’s what made the difference.
“We had to try and look for that a little bit more in the first half but we’re pleased that it came in the second half and we could do good things with the space that we [saw].”