The Marcus Rashford conundrum: Analysing the fuss surrounding the Manchester United forward's playing time
The 20-year-old was restored into starting eleven against Liverpool and repaid United manager Jose Mourinho's faith by scoring twice.
The criticism surrounding Mourinho's handling of Rashford
Frank de Boer criticized Marcus Rashford's handling by Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho by citing lack of patience on Mourinho's behalf. It has been echoed by several former English players who were concerned by the England international's lack of playing time in recent months with just three months left for FIFA World Cup.
"It's a pity that the manager is Mourinho," De Boer said of Marcus Rashford's development. "Because normally he's an English player you want to give him time and he can then make mistakes. But Mourinho is not like that. He wants to get results."
Mourinho has previously worked with De Boer as Louis van Gaal's assistant in Barcelona and was sympathetic to his Crystal Palace sacking by calling it 'incredible' back in September.
De Boer seemed to be suggesting that Mourinho is the wrong manager to nurture Rashford. In his analysis, he pointed out lack of tolerance shown by United manager towards mistakes. Jose Mourinho has now hit back at Frank de Boer after labelling him ‘the worst manager' in Premier League history.
Rashford is not that game-deprived either
Rashford's 'childish' decision-making at Leicester just two days before Christmas as he wasted glorious opportunities during several counter-attacks called for punishment but the Portuguese retained him against Burnley three days later, albeit with Anthony Martial unavailable through injury.
It was just an enforced delay as United manager dropped him from starting eleven with Rashford's next league start coming at the weekend.
Marcus Rashford's supposed lack of playing time has concerned those bizarrely preoccupied with England's World Cup squad. Among left-wingers, Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez are currently superior players than the 20-year-old on their day.
For a footballer supposedly deprived of game time, Rashford has made 40 appearances than across all competitions this season. He has already bettered last season appearances (36) at the same stage.
His brace against Liverpool has surpassed his tally of 11 in the previous season and a 20-goal season beckons if Rashford displays ruthlessness of last Saturday for remaining part of this campaign.
Support for Rashford
The Manchester United legend, Gary Neville has also discarded the mutter surrounding Rashford's future at Manchester United. "People saying he should leave are talking nonsense, it's rubbish," said Neville.
"The kid has been brilliant for 18 months. He's having a period out of the team at the moment which happens to every young winger or forward that comes into the team. That's happened to every player I have seen, they dip in and out of the team and they have periods where they don't play. It's not because they're out of favour."
Inconsistency is almost inevitable with the wide players. Manchester United's most decorated player, Ryan Giggs, was sarcastically cheered off by supporters during the 2003 League Cup semi-final against Blackburn and his career was peppered with periods of mediocrity. The Manchester United manager encountered the same problem with Martial and currently facing it with new signing Alexis Sanchez.
Analysing Rashford's recent performances
Marcus Rashford actually kept Martial out of the side following the Manchester derby but his erratic running at Bristol City and those inexplicable choices on the counter-attack at Leicester relegated him back to the bench.
The 'childish' decision making continued against Burnley, where he shot rather than passed, much to Romelu Lukaku's chagrin. He scored against League Two opposition Yeovil Town in FA Cup but it wasn't enough to bring him back to contention for the place in starting eleven.
The England international's local hero status partly prompted United supporters' jeering upon his removal against Spurs and Liverpool. Martial scored the match-winner in the former vindicating Rashford's substitution and there was an apt logic behind Rashford's withdrawal against Liverpool, having collected a yellow card in the first-half.
A spell on the bench has reinforced Rashford's confidence. His first goal very reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo's chop-and-hit against Dynamo Kiev in 2007 with the turn and powerful finish in the corner.
Mourinho was understood to be in confusion over whether to start Rashford or Jesse Lingard against the Reds but was swayed by the momentum the former generated at Selhurst Park.
Rashford's mentality is unlikely to ever trouble Jose Mourinho. He was purposeful at Sevilla and injected the much-needed urgency in the United attack at Crystal Palace last week.
Rashford's marked improvement in ruthlessness in front of goal made it abundantly clear he has regained the confidence he was devoid of in recent months and with his display against United's bitter rivals, he deserves his place back in Manchester United starting eleven.
With the abundance of options that Mourinho has for the left flank, him handling Rashford in a stern manner was very necessary. This has, in all likelihood, helped Rashford to understand that the margin of error is very slim which was on display in his performance against Liverpool.
He now knows that he cannot take his place in the starting line-up for granted and will be motivated enough to put in a good display in each of the remaining fixtures.