Friday, 2 February 2018

Sanchez may be the present but Rashford remains United's future

A world class talent with match-winning ability aplenty, there's no doubt that United's capture of Alexis Sanchez from under the noses of Manchester City represented a major coup for Jose and the Reds. But there have been some fears that the acquisition of the ex Arsenal star will have an impact on United's next generation of talent - particularly the future of Marcus Rashford, who plays in the same position that Alexis has occupied so far for United.

It's easy to see why Rashford has been targeted as the player most likely to suffer from the impact of Sanchez's arrival. Despite doubts over the summer that linked him with a move away, Anthony Martial has been on fire this season while Jesse Lingard is in the form of his life and has become a vital player for the Reds. Rashford, meanwhile, has been indifferent at best. He's too often been guilty of poor decision-making, and has struggled to rediscover the clinical and dynamic touch that saw his burst on to the scene - and stay there - in 2016. This is the first sticky patch of his United career, but we must remember that he's still a very young player and even the best suffer from difficult setbacks. Despite his apparent dip in form, he's still maintained an impressive level of productivity with ten goals and eight assists.
 Rashford has featured in all but one of our 35 competitive games this term, so concerns over his long-term future are misplaced. While Martial has usurped him to become first choice on the left-hand side, Rashford remains Jose's go-to selection as a game-changing sub or top quality rotation option. 

At 20, playing for the biggest club in the country both in the league and in Europe, that's not a bad position for Rashford to be in: his fairytale start to life in England set the bar (and expectations) very high indeed, but there's no need to rush his development. We all know just what a special young talent he is and he won't hit his peak for another three or four years yet.  His versatility, too, will see him given more than enough game time to keep his progress on track. He's able to play on either wing or up top as the central striker, which is where many - myself included - still think to be the position where his future lies. Sanchez can also fulfill all of the same roles, and as United's marquee, superstar signing, he'll automatically be ahead of Rashford in the pecking order. But let's not forget that Alexis is 29 now and is very much a signing for the here and now. Players such as him often begin to regress when they're around 33 or 34, by which time Rashford will only be 24 - an age still considered to be young - with the odd mistake excused in the name of the learning process. Indeed, Rashford's opener in the 4-0 FA Cup win at Yeovil, set up by the debutant Chilean, proved that the two can link up together perfectly well and that Rashford will not suffer from Sanchez's role in the side.
 Our new number seven will hold a near-undroppable position initially, and that means that Rashford will vie for one of the remaining three forward places in Jose's 4-2-3-1 system. But he won't be starved of opportunity and the fact that he's appeared in every game (with the exception of Wembley on Wednesday), proved just how highly the manager rates the young forward.

The jury is still out for many on just how high Rashford's ceiling is. But whatever the level of his true potential, the arrival of Sanchez will not bring about his Old Trafford exit. United's future is in good hands.

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