Pressure on Rashford to reproduce England form

Marcus Rashford started in Manchester United's 3-1 away loss to Manchester City a fortnight ago but was substituted. He has appeared nine times in the league this term but four have been off the bench.
Marcus Rashford started in Manchester United's 3-1 away loss to Manchester City a fortnight ago but was substituted. He has appeared nine times in the league this term but four have been off the bench.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Marcus Rashford has shown in an England shirt that he has the necessary qualities required to be an attacking threat, but his task now is to replicate that form for Manchester United.

He impressed as England beat Croatia 2-1 last Sunday to secure a place in next June's Nations League Finals, yet there is no guarantee he will start when United host Crystal Palace in the English Premier League today.

That is because manager Jose Mourinho is still wrestling with the question of how best to fit the forward into his team, although it does not appear to be a problem at international level.

England manager Gareth Southgate has used Rashford to great effect on the left of a front three.

However, to secure the same position at United, the player will need to force his way past Anthony Martial, whose current form is as good as anything he has shown during his three years at Old Trafford.

Six goals in his last five league games makes Martial undroppable at the moment and Mourinho has also been impressed with the way the France forward has taken on board his defensive duties. This means Rashford is unlikely to displace Martial for the clash with Roy Hodgson's men, who have never beaten United in the EPL before.

A tally of two goals in all competitions for the Red Devils this term suggests there is room for improvement. The England man's finishing too often lacks a ruthless touch so, perhaps in the short term, his best hope of a regular berth is to prove himself on the right side of the front three, a role he played when United drew 2-2 last month at Chelsea.

 
 
 

The forward has the discipline to stay in his position when playing in a wide role, and is an undoubted threat when cutting in off either flank. Playing there could, in turn, give him the games to help build his confidence.

There is no doubt, though, that Mourinho rates Rashford highly, which is why reports this week talking about a potential move to European champions Real Madrid appear unlikely to lead anywhere.

But, in a recent interview with TV channel Univison, the Portuguese manager says he wants Rashford, Martial, Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw to start showing "maturity on a personal level" to fulfil the "big" potential they have.

"He's (Rashford) a privileged player and kid, if you want to say it. A man, who has so many opportunities to develop himself, and is going to keep having them," Mourinho said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2018, with the headline 'Pressure on Rashford to reproduce England form'. Print Edition | Subscribe