Flash Rash can be key for club and country as Man Utd form continues

Two men deserve credit to revitalising Marcus Rashford - the man himself and his current manager at Old Trafford.

It seems remarkable to think there were questions over Marcus Rashford’s future at Manchester United and his suitability to feature in England’s World Cup squad over the last 12 months.

Yes, the Red Devils forward did hit a slump time times in the last two seasons and he has opened up on his mental state throughout what must feel like the most challenging period of a career that promised so much. Micah Richards may well have the monopoly on claims that he ‘burst on to the scene’ - but Rashford really did introduce himself with a blast when he made his senior debut just under seven years ago.

Barely known by those outside of Old Trafford, the young forward marked his first-team bow with a brace in a Europa League win against Danish club Midtjylland, putting himself alongside the legendary George Best as the club’s youngest ever European goalscorer. Just days later, Rashford hit the headlines once again with a further two goals and an assist as he helped his side to a 3-2 win against Arsenal on his first ever appearance in the Premier League. The pattern continued when Rashford marked his senior England debut with a goal in a 2-1 friendly win against Australia, making him the Three Lions youngest ever goalscoring debutant - breaking a record held by Tommy Lawton since 1938.

Building on the foundations of his early promise on the shifting sands at Old Trafford was never going to be an easy task but Rashford still hit double figures during the following five seasons, hitting a maximum of 22 in 2019/20 before falling just one short of that total 12 months later.

Last season, with confidence around the club at a low, Rashford found the net just five times and found himself used increasingly as an impact substitute, with the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick seeming to lose their trust in a player that really deserved more support and guidance.

That is why the appointment of Erik ten Hag, a manager well-versed in revitalising the careers of flair players, could prove to be the turning point in Rashford’s career and set him on the path to becoming a true legend with the club he supported as a boy. Suddenly, the Manchester-born star looks like a bundle of energy once again, thrusting doubt into opponents with his sheer skill, power and pace and delivering an end product that can go missing in many forward-thinking players.

The dramatic winning goal in Saturday’s Manchester derby took Rashford’s tally for the season to 16 goals in just 26 appearances in all competitions, an impressive tally for a player that has largely been utilised as a wide player, rather than a number nine. His creative influence has also grown, with his six assists for the season meaning Rashford is close to one goal involvement in every game. England also reaped the benefits as Gareth Southgate placed his trust in the 25-year-old and was rewarded with a fine return at the World Cup Finals.

INSPIRATION: Marcus Rashford is in top form after a poor 2021-22 by his high standardsINSPIRATION: Marcus Rashford is in top form after a poor 2021-22 by his high standards
INSPIRATION: Marcus Rashford is in top form after a poor 2021-22 by his high standards

Rashford netted three goals in six appearances to take his Three Lions tally to 15 goals in 51 senior caps and his performances for club and country surely mean he will see off challenges from a number of attacking rivals to firmly secure himself as Southgate’s main wide option when his side begin their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign in Italy in March.

Rashford obviously deserves credit for hauling himself out of a slump but his club manager should receive great credit for his role in revitalising the confidence on a player with undoubted talent and ability. The rewards of Ten Hag’s hard work will be felt within the walls of Old Trafford, but they could also pay off for Gareth Southgate as he looks to finally end England’s long wait for a major tournament win.

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