Forward | Manchester United | England
When an 18-year-old Marcus Rashford burst on to the scene in the Europa League in 2016, Manchester United thought they’d hit the jackpot. A brace on his Europa League and Premier League debuts respectively just three days apart had everyone excited for what Rashford would bring both United and the England national team.
Two years later and there remains no doubts about what Rashford can achieve. It’s difficult to believe he’s only 21 years old because in the almost three years since he came out of nowhere, he’s made an incredible 139 first-team appearances for United and picked up 31 full international caps for the Three Lions.
His strength, pace and intelligence are traits we saw in those two breakthrough appearances in 2016 and if anything, he has become a far more rounded player since then. His only issues have been consistency, which has let him down at times.
Life under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United wasn’t exactly plain sailing and if anything, the Portuguese was hindering Rashford’s development through an erratic management style that borders on the ridiculous at Old Trafford. Thankfully for Rashford, Mourinho is no longer there to get in his way.
2018 has been…
…confusing. On the pitch Rashford has been inconsistent. Unplayable at times, non-existent at others. Sometimes we see both sides of him in the space of just 90 minutes, which would perhaps suggest why Jose Mourinho was occasionally publicly critical of the youngster.
In January, following the arrival of Alexis Sanchez, Mourinho hailed Rashford as a future star. Come December and there were rumours that he remained unconvinced by Rashford’s hype. No wonder the forward often cuts a confused figure on the pitch - he doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going.
That said, this calendar year he has rarely shown why there was so much early hype around him. Just seven goals in 39 first-team appearances simply is not good enough for a 21-year-old forward playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Granted, most of his teammates haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory either.
A red card in a 2-1 victory at Burnley in September for head-butting Phil Bardsley led to Mourinho calling him a ‘naive boy’ and no one really argued against it. Since then Rashford has been hit and miss, summed up perfectly in the 2-2 draw away at Southampton. Trailing 2-0 and having a shocker of a first half, the forward ended up setting up two goals to ensure United went in at the break level without really deserving it.
His international year has been much of the same, too. Gareth Southgate continues to praise Rashford but he has often gone missing in games, despite netting in three consecutively between September and October.
Who knows? Jose Mourinho’s recent Old Trafford exit should give Rashford a new lease of life and he needs to grasp the opportunity of a fresh start under someone new. If not then a move away and a fresh start elsewhere will have to be the answer for a forward who still has so much to offer but appears to be stuck in a rut at present.