Thursday 22 November 2018

Marcus Rashford chalk and cheese for United and England

Marcus Rashford's Manchester United career is one that can be split neatly down the middle. The pre-Jose Mourinho Rashford - the young, fearless, fearsome local boy who catapulted himself into the national spotlight with four goals in his first two games.

Then there's the Rashford we are seeing now - he is still one of the brightest talents in the game but has lost his edge. He is missing the ruthlessness that he had in abundance in those first two ties. Rashford has spent so much of his time out wide that his megawatt glow has dimmed. Of course, plenty of players have gone out wide and still remained prolific - Kylian Mbappe the obvious example - but it's the role that Rashford has had to play - far too much is being asked of him. Too much defensive work. Mourinho's obsession with the demand for his players - no matter in what position - to track back, has taken it out of him.
Sure, he does it because he’s just that kind of kid who wants to please, but is it any surprise that he then has nowhere near enough air left in his lungs to finish clinically? The joy, the instinct and the cutting edge have slowly but inexorably dripped from his 24-carat talent.
It would be churlish to lay this all at the feet of José Mourinho, but let’s be realistic for a minute here because what the hell has been done to Rashford? It’s ridiculous that one would take such a bright and vibrant attacking talent and drain so much of the explosive creativity from his game.

 Here was a young striking prospect that England could rally behind. Here was someone who could become a devastating partner for Harry Kane (who back then was busy proving he was no one season wonder) in time.

 Watching him for United, he looks like a player that will get through on goal and, more often than not, panic and miss his shot. He appears to be a player overthinking things. But we musn't forget how very, very young he is. Still only 21, there's so much more from him to come. He's not become a terrible footballer overnight. He's just struggled to adapt to

an unfamiliar job in a strangulated side.

Many will rush to Mourinho’s defence here, but the simple retort to those people is: look at Rashford for England. Is that the same player you see every week for Manchester United? Or does that look much more like the Marcus Rashford who ended his first season with eight goals in 18 games? Anyone with an ounce of truth in their soul will answer the latter.
Rashford looks overjoyed to play for England. He plays wide, sure, but he does so with less defensive responsibility and more trust in attack. He's left to do what he's so good at - running at opposing full backs with the ball at his feet. He’s also playing for a team that keep the ball on the ground and get it moving.
With Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, Rashford has like-minded forwards who are all about interplay and ball movement. No one hogs the ball, no one dithers, and no one is there trying to play a completely different style of football to him.

In the Uefa Nations League group stage, England scored four goals against Spain and Rashford scored or assisted three of them. His role running off the ball was key to the Three Lions ripping Spain to pieces on the break in a display more full of verve and intent than any in United red since his debut season. Even against Croatia, where he failed to score, he produced a pulsating performance that stirred the soul. If this was the kind of player England have at their disposal then just imagine the great things that could be achieved.
Now we whiplash back to the club game, and await to see Rashford’s mild-mannered alter ego either sat on the bench waiting for a late cameo or starting in a defensively constraining role. Either way, even with the No.10 shirt on his back, it will be decidedly underwhelming and leave us all asking when will Rashford escape Mourinho’s tyranny and be able to live his whole footballing life as the superhero we all know he can be?

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