Up until January, Marcus Rashford was Manchester United’s undisputed player of the season. With 19 goals to his name he was spearheading their charge for the top four, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer coaxing a new best from the England international. He’s looked off the pace since the restart following the coronavirus crisis, however, and must now step it up.
Manchester United have seen their attacking players thrive since the break, with Solskjaer’s side now poised to go third in the Premier League table with victory over Southampton at Old Trafford.
Mason Greenwood has found the net four times in his last three matches, notching a brace against Bournemouth and managing further strikes against Brighton and Aston Villa.
Anthony Martial has struck four times since the restart, including a hat-trick against Sheffield United.
And Bruno Fernandes has continued to flourish since his January arrival from Sporting Lisbon, scoring five goals from his last six matches.
Rashford, however, hasn’t scaled the same heights as earlier in the campaign.
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His standout performance since the restart to date was in the win over Sheffield United, where he contributed two assists as Martial stole the show.
But he’s found the net just once so far – a penalty in the 5-2 thumping of Bournemouth at the start of the month.
Some fans, rather fickle fans, have called for him to be dropped on social media. And that sparked Solskjaer into defending his talisman on Saturday, saying: “Very happy with him.
“Physically, he’s coping well with the games, he’s mixing up his game, he’s making defenders think, he runs in behind, he comes short, he can play a pass, he can make a run, he’s got individual skills, so Marcus has got all the attributes to be a top forward.
“You can see our players – suddenly he pops up on the right, Mason on the left, Anthony on the left or right, and you want that rotation between them.
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“But also sometimes have the discipline to stick out wide and create space for others, and make runs. Sometimes you get an assist – in my head – for creating space and making runs for others and we see it.”
While Solskjaer’s words suggest the United boss isn’t worried, however, Rashford has definitely been a shadow of his old self since the restart.
He appears to have regressed slightly, turning back into the inconsistent performer supporters have seen often over the last four years.
But, in Solskjaer, he has a manager whose ready to persevere.
The Norwegian sees Rashford as a future Ballon d’Or winner and is ready to hand him as many opportunities as possible in order to coax the best from him.
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Glenn Hoddle recently suggested that Greenwood could actually replace his fellow academy star long term, such is the teenager’s frightening potential.
But there’s no chance of that happening. United see Rashford as vital to their future and believe that, sooner rather than later, he’ll be back on song.
Dips in form are inevitable. Not everybody can be a Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.
And Rashford will be out to get on the scoresheet from open play when United lock horns with Southampton in their Premier League showdown on Monday night.
A goal could spark the best from the England international once again. And with four league games to go, that couldn’t come at a better time.
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