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Martial and Rashford need to take center stage for Manchester United next season

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The prolific young attackers both endured long spells on the bench last season, and that needs to change.

Swansea City v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Manchester United is a special club because its history is built on the work and success of generations of teams and talent. From the Busby Babes up through the latest class of youngsters the club has continually turned out scores of professional footballers. Even in the transfer market the club historically buys players who show potential over older players in or past their prime. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial respectively are perfect examples of these methods.

Martial, initially considered overpriced and burdened when he was brought in as a teenager, has proven his worth since his first match at Old Trafford. Marcus Rashford exploded into the first team, bagging 4 goals in his first two games and helping United to 3 trophies in his first 2 seasons. Both young forwards are fan favorites at Old Trafford. They are prolific scorers and creators, but they have yet to be rewarded as undisputed first team regulars. That needs to end this season before they consider greener (or worse, bluer) pastures.

Mourinho’s decision to start Alexis Sánchez over Martial and Rashford was a bit controversial, and only spiraled as Alexis’ performances failed to impress regularly. Rashford kept his head up and took a couple of opportunities in stride towards the end of the season, but Martial’s attitude about being benched did little to earn Mourinho’s trust again. Much has been made about the future and response of both players in a tough situation, but it can certainly be argued that both players’ responses were justified. Rashford, who responded by keeping his head down and putting in the work to catch Mourinho’s attention, and Martial, who looked visibly upset at times and whose agent helped fan the flames of exit rumors. Rashford and Martial are both hard workers, however, and both can be special for Manchester United for at least the next few seasons.

The two had similar seasons statistically in the 2017/18 campaign, and were often called on to provide the goals when Lukaku’s form was off. 11 and 13 goals for Martial and Rashford respectively is impressive for players as young as them playing at the highest level, and along with Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku they were the only players to reach double digits in goals. One has to think that they’re capable of much more if given more playing time.

Mourinho can play both of them at the same time if he places Rashford on the right and leaves Martial in his favored position on the left, and even play Alexis through the middle behind Lukaku, where he likes to cut into whenever he plays as a winger anyway.

There have been calls for Manchester United Chief Executive Ed Woodward to make more moves in the summer transfer window, something he has been notably poor at in the past, but in truth this is a side that already possesses the talent to compete. Lukaku and Pogba have established themselves as the reliable backbone of the team, and with Martial, Rashford, Lingard, and Alexis around them United are more than capable of producing chances and goals. Matić was an excellent addition to the midfield, and the arrival of Fred should provide even more forward passes and created chances. The problem is maintaining form over the course of a season. Of the 101 goals Manchester United scored last season 75 of them were scored before the end of January.

A more consistent lineup — with Martial and Rashford as core pieces, rather than fringe elements — will certainly help United regain the goalscoring form they achieved at the beginning of last season.