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Marcus Rashford is making the leap

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Rashford already has his best ever goal return, and he is now transforming potential into consistent class

Manchester United v Liverpool FC - Premier League Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Marcus Rashford’s 2019/20 campaign has been excellent, particularly over the last couple of months. His 14 goals in all competitions surpasses his previous best tally for goals in a season, and it’s only December. There are still some questions about composure in front of goal, and he could certainly have more goals than he has now, but there’s no question that his positioning, attacking vision, and finishing have all improved this year, and operating on the left-wing next to Anthony Martial has aided that.

The problem with Rashford in the past has not been his ability to get up for important moments, but rather his ability to maintain form from week to week. We saw a flash of what could be last season during Solskjaer’s interim tenure, but that form tailed off as injuries and fatigue took hold. Under José Mourinho, Rashford’s form suffered similarly, coming down to inconsistent chances in the first team and a position battle at left-wing with Martial to accompany either Zlatan Ibrahimović or Romelu Lukaku at no. 9.

Now, with both Mourinho and Lukaku out of the picture, Rashford has been made the driving force of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s front 3, who has even compared his abilities and potential to that of Cristiano Ronaldo. This was certainly evident in recent wins against Colchester United, Manchester City, and Tottenham Hotspur, games in which Rashford tormented defenders relentlessly with his pace. Though he still whiffs on a few chances here and there, he’s putting himself in a position to score more often and more effectively than we’ve seen him do in the past. It’s only natural for goals to go up as chances go up, and Rashford’s confidence seems to have gone up as well. He’s less hesitant with the ball at his feet, and is becoming more unpredictable for defenders by adding shots from range to his game.

Rashford has been in good form for England as well, scoring 3 times in their last 4 qualifiers, and playing in a similar wide attacking role to the one he’s played under Solskjaer this season. Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate has expressed his own view that this could be Rashford’s best position, and that his speed and ability to get in behind defenders make him an excellent option to complete a front 3 with Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. Jadon Sancho’s emergence was seen as a potential threat to Rashford’s place in the England side, but the United man has continued to excel in one of the more exciting England teams in recent years.

Such high praise playing for both club and country carries a heavy burden, but Rashford has lived with such expectations since his breakout performances against FC Midtjylland and Arsenal as a teenager, nearly 4 years ago. In fact, it could be argued that few players have carried the weight of being a Manchester United player better than Rashford, including several multi-million pound signings. His passion and drive is finally turning into goals — the question is whether he can keep it up. Rashford’s development over the last couple of seasons is finally coming into frame, he just needs to take the next step by keeping this level of play up through a crowded winter schedule.

Manchester United will play 10 games between now and the end of January, including away fixtures in the Premier League to Arsenal and Liverpool, an FA Cup 3rd round matchup at Wolves, and a 2-legged Semi-Final tie with Manchester City in the League Cup. The club’s lack of depth has been a problem all season, and it’s doubtful that Rashford will have much time for rest in the upcoming winter schedule. It’s a crucial time in United’s season, making it all the more important for Rashford to keep up his good form and continue his transformation from promising young talent into a club talisman.