Manchester United fans could be forgiven for questioning whether they will bring back the old Marcus Rashford after a sluggish 2021/22 season.
Everton couldn’t live with Marcus Rashford on Friday night
The homegrown star became a national hero for his off-court prowess, but he no longer puts numbers on it. A long-term shoulder injury didn’t help, but even after recovering from surgery in the summer of 2021, the spark that made him stand out was gone.
This is a player who scored more than 20 goals in consecutive seasons between 2019 and 2021, but only scored 5 goals last season. It was the lowest tally of his entire career and didn’t even match the eight he scored in 11 games as an 18-year-old at the end of the 2015/16 season.
Now, Rashford couldn’t be further from that version of himself.
He was instrumental in United’s win over Everton in the FA Cup at Old Trafford on Friday night, opening the scoring and scoring the final decisive own goal before coming off the injury stoppage time. At that time, he locked the score with his own penalty kick.
Everton couldn’t stand his speed and direct running and kicked off from the left. But he also delivered the end product, the embodiment of composure as he waited for Jordan Pickford to back down first and smack the ball late into the open goal from 12 yards.
Rashford has held his record for goals per game since the World Cup – now at five and counting. His stoppage-time penalty against the Toffees also meant he was the first United player to score in seven consecutive home games in all competitions in 10-and-a-half years. The last person to achieve this feat was Wayne Rooney in the first months of 2012.
The mental strength shown by the 25-year-old is commendable as he returned to his best form and arguably surpassed it by reaching new levels. But a lot of the credit also goes to Eric Ten Hag, whose beliefs and personnel management seem to have had a huge impact.
Ten Hag, who had earned the respect of United early in his tenure, ordered extra training the day after the humiliating defeat against Brentford. He had his players run the best part of the 14km to prove a point about desire and application, while also joining himself in a show of solidarity.
This United team has given him more than any other player over the past 10 years at Old Trafford. For Rashford in particular, Ten Hag has instilled confidence, a weapon that is absolutely vital to his potential to be a game-changing spark.
Just last month, Ten Hag said Rashford is currently second only to Kylian Mbappe in terms of world-class wingers. Imagine what that belief could do for a player who was already doing well.
“From the first moment, I realized the huge potential. When Marcus is positioned in the defence, there are hardly any better players in the world. At this moment, there is only Mbappe,” the Manchester United boss said at the time. Said.
Even discipline is strong. Rashford accidentally overslept last week, arriving late to a team meeting ahead of United’s game against Wolves. He was left out of the starting XI due to inappropriate behaviour, but came off the bench to win the game. Without sulking, Rashford quickly put it behind him, accepted his mistake and moved on.
It shows a well-oiled machine where respect and trust are the rules. Without that culture, Rashford would never have rediscovered his form, but he has embraced it and run with it.
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