What now for Marcus Rashford?
On 25th February, when Manchester United had to play the return leg of the UEFA Europa League game against FC Midtjylland and overturn the 1-2 deficit, they were stung with a host of injuries. When you thought things couldn’t get much worse United’s only attacking threat, Anthony Martial went off limping during the warm-ups with a stiff hamstring.
Enter Marcus Rashford.
A thorough Mancunian from the United academy, he was thrust into the first team alongside many other academy products due to injuries to vital first team players such as Luke Shaw, Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia and many others. What followed that night was a dream start to his Manchester United career. With two goals in 12 minutes, Marcus Rashford could not have announced his arrival in a better fashion.
In the next three days United had to play a near full strength Arsenal team. This time again United were without the likes of Martial, Rooney, Carrick and other star players. Louis van Gaal had to give Marcus Rashford his first start in his Premier League debut. Within just the half hour mark Guillermo Varela whipped in a cross which was deflected by Gabriel Paulista towards Marcus Rashford who wasted no time in driving the ball past the veteran Petr Cech.
While the dust not even settling on Marcus Rashford’s first league goal, he scored again within three minutes of his first. This time with a header from a Jesse Lingard cross. With 8 goals in 18 appearances, Marcus Rashford never looked back and continued to build on. Then came the Euro 2016 call-up for the provisional squads.
A goal on his debut in a friendly against Australia was enough to earn him a ticket to France. Although making substitute appearances against Wales and Iceland, Marcus Rashford showed a glimpse of the things to come and if molded carefully Rashford can truly emulate a certain English Manchester United teammate.
Now with Jose Mourinho at the helm with his record of handling youngsters, Marcus Rashford’s career is at turning point. What should the management do with him after the recent acquisitions of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mkhitaryan coupled with Mourinho’s plans to play Rooney near the attacking third?
- Let’s discuss the possible roles for Marcus Rashford for the coming season with (his) best interests in mind.
The arrivals of Ibrahimovic and Mkhitaryan should demote Rashford to the bench subsequently and certainly his game time would be reduced by much than that of last year. Maybe this move will discourage him a bit but he has to remember that he got his first team debut due to a number of injuries and this is not Louis van Gaal’s reign whose primary aim was UCL qualification.
This is Jose Mourinho and he likes established players over nurturing young players to get his job done. But Rashford has all the ingredients to come in as a super sub and turn the game on its head. Also, Zlatan won't be turning any younger which means 90 minutes of Premier League football week in week out is not possible for any player nearing 35. This is Rashford’s window to show how much of an impact player he is.
Playing the Cup Competitions
United play the Europe League, League Cup and the FA Cup, but none of these are Mourinho’s priority. So, this is the perfect opportunity to blood the younger players in Europe. Without the pressures of winning these competitions, the likes of Marcus Rashford can build on this and develop their skills in Europe by playing and traveling to Europe’s not-so-big teams.
This option is not only practical but also sensible in following Manchester United’s philosophy of incorporating academy graduates into the first team picture. Therefore keeping in mind Mourinho’s regard for youth, a free run in the Europa League and other cups is beneficial to both parties.
Loan to another club
This move might be seen as a setback in the 18-year old’s career but in a team comprising of attacking talents such as Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan, Martial, Mata and presumably Pogba, Marcus Rashford might not get much game time or freedom to express himself. With most clubs loaning out youngsters or inserting and exercising buy back clauses, it would not be a bad idea to loan out Rashford, where he might get a regular starting place.
Well, this move comes with its own set of problems. As is evident from last season, United were bogged down by injuries in vital parts of the year and they were left severely exposed.
Wayne Rooney is nearing the fag end of his career, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 35 and new to the Premier League, and Anthony Martial is the only other first team striker. Right now a loan move is a very dangerous proposition for United, as it may backfire for both the player and club.
Starting alongside Ibrahimovic
We all know Mourinho’s love for the 4-2-3-1 formation which involves a big brawny No. 9 who can play with his back towards the goal and can take on defenders at will. Marcus Rashford doesn’t fit that bill in any way but he can complement someone like Ibrahimovic.
Marcus Rashford is everything Zlatan is not. Quick, fleet-footed, lanky frame and younger. So why not play them together? Zlatan’s playing style involves a lot of players marking him which would leave Rashford to run rings around the opposition’s defence.
A classic 4-4-2 formation would definitely showcase United’s attacking prowess at the expense of players such as Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin. But given Mourinho’s Real Madrid of 2011-12 taking a record 100 points with a goal difference of +89, nothing is impossible.
Only time will tell what lies ahead for the 18-year-old and, no doubt, the next season will be a big one for his career.