Restoring Marcus Rashford will be one of Ralf Rangnick's biggest challenges as Manchester United manager
Marcus Rashford started Manchester United's Premier League win over Norwich City, but failed to make an impression for Ralf Rangnick's team. The England international must work to prove he is still a part of the Old Trafford club's long-term future with Rangnick hired to point the team in the right direction.
Marcus Rashford playing for Manchster United against Norwich City.
Just three games into Ralf Rangnick’s interim tenure, Manchester United are currently a work in progress. That was clear in their performance against Norwich City with the visitors to Carrow Road somewhat fortunate in their 1-0 victory. Few in red performed to their full potential.
This was certainly true of Marcus Rashford who failed to make much of an impression. Picked to play from the start, the 24-year-old’s decision-making was poor and showed few signs of a partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo in Rangnick’s 4-2-2-2 formation which paired the two attackers together.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Rashford was most commonly used on the left side of a 4-2-3-1. This was a role that suited him as a skilful and energetic winger with the natural instinct to cut inside and offer a goal threat and Solskjaer often got the best out of the England international.
Now, though, Rashford is being asked to play in a more central role with Rangnick’s system demanding that the full backs, not the wingers, provide width. It’s not a position that suits Rashford with the 24-year-old positionally confused at points of United’s away win over Norwich City on Saturday.
On talent alone, there aren’t many at Old Trafford right now as gifted as Rashford. He has been an icon of Manchester United in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson age and has his best years still to come for club and country. But Rashford is a player in need of restoration, as demonstrated by some of his recent displays.
It’s possible Rangnick could use Rashford as one of his attacking midfield two in the 4-2-2-2 shape. This is a role Jadon Sancho has performed relatively well with the former Borussia Dortmund wide man afforded slightly more freedom to drift out to the flanks where he can take on opponents.
However, if Rashford is used in this way, how will Sancho and Bruno Fernandes fit into the team? What’s more, Manchester United still have Paul Pogba to return from injury, and then there’s Donny van de Beek, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood to think about.
Competition for places in United’s attack was already stiff, but Rangnick’s appointment has created a situation that could squeeze wide forwards in particular out of the club. The wide forward role no longer exists as such at Old Trafford and so Rashford and others will have to adapt.
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Jadon Sancho of Manchester United celebrates after scoring their side's first goal with Marcus Rashford during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on November 28, 2021 in London,
Image credit: Getty Images
Not for three seasons has Rashford failed to reach double figures in Premier League goals, but the 24-year-old will do well to make 10 goals this season - he has found the net just twice in the 2021/22 campaign so far. Rashford had troubles even before Rangnick pitched up at Manchester United.
Injuries have been a factor in Rashford’s staggered start to the season with the England international only making his first appearance of the campaign in the 4-2 defeat to Leicester City in mid-October. By choosing to have shoulder surgery after Euro 2020, Rashford sacrificed his pre-season and might now be paying for that.
Increasingly, it seems Rashford is at a critical juncture in his Manchester United career. Few doubt his natural ability, but the 24-year-old must prove that he can be a difference-maker on a regular basis. Rashford could still flourish into one of the Premier League’s best, but for how many of United’s direct rivals would he realistically start for?
Rangnick will spend the next six months assessing his squad and judging which players can help push Manchester United in the right direction. Until recently, Rashford would have been seen as a player to build around, but this is no longer guaranteed. He, like so many others, must prove his worth.