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Staff Takeaways: Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United

Manchester United v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Colin - Training ground defensive work is showing, even with rotation.

There were plenty of groans and concerns throughout the United universe when it was announced that club captain Harry Maguire would be returning to action. With Varane injured and Lindelof out with illness he was the only fit centre back in the team, but despite a rusty start he grew into the game and played very well in the end as they got the clean sheet.

Part of the reason for that is the good communication across the back four, and particularly the cohesion with Maguire, his defensive partner Lisandro Martinez, and his goalkeeper David de Gea. With the full backs charging forward often as a vital part of build up they have to account for space left behind, and they did just that today. Obviously Casemiro plays a role in that as well, but his turnovers made things harder at times today, and the defense had to handle sustained pressure on multiple occasions today. They did that with confidence, and showed that even with personnel changes they are capable of getting the job done. That hasn’t been the case for some time at Old Trafford.

Suwaid - Header unlocked?

I don’t think it was the goal, but Rashford’s headed effort before the goal that got me thinking we might be onto something here. Marcus Rashford had only scored five headed goals before the two this week.

I’m not sure what’s happened in recent weeks, but with him scoring headers, and David de Gea adding bits to his game, some of the individuals look like they’re actually improving their game.

Going back to Rashford, one of the reasons I wasn’t always convinced by his game even as an inside forward was that he didn’t have much to his game besides the transition threat. When you look at the best inside forwards in the league, they’ve always had plenty of strings to their bow.

Son’s got his ability with both feet, Sadio Mane’s had the heading ability among other things, Raheem Sterling’s had his movement in the box, and Mohammad Salah has been close to complete for a while. Not to mention, Rashford wasn’t any good at pressing from the front either. That’s all starting to change. The player deserves huge credit.

You can’t help but think Erik ten Hag is not just getting the most out of the team, but also asking more from them. Managers should always play to the strengths of the individual, and the players are obliged to give their all once the manager does that. We’re seeing a bit of both now, which is a great sign for the team going forward.

Chris: Rashford’s rediscovering his groove under ten Hag

Like many players this season, Marcus Rashford’s game is improving day-by-day with Erik ten Hag at the helm for Manchester United.

Rashford looked completely uninterested and tuned out of many games last season. His touch, final pass, decision making, and finishing were miles off of previous seasons.

This season, the forward is regaining his form and playing with renewed confidence and energy. The 25-year-old has already recorded the same numbers in the Premier League in 12 games as he did in 25 matches last season—four goals and two assists—including a header on Sunday against West Ham to secure his 100th club goal.

Following the win at Old Trafford, Rashford told Sky Sports that he’s in a much better place mentally this season than he was last season.

“It’s a complete different energy around the club and the training ground,” Rashford said. “That puts me in a better headspace and I just feel really motivated now. That’s the area I was struggling in. ... I was struggling at times with more mental things. It wasn’t really my own performance but other things off the pitch. That’s the biggest difference from last season.”

With his 100th United goal under his belt and a clear mind heading into each match, here’s to hoping Rashford can continue to grow and once again find the form that made United fans fall in love with him.

Pauly: “Happy learned how to putt”

(Marcus Rashford learned how to use his head)

Last season The Busby Babe did an extensive analysis of Marcus Rashford and looked at how he had developed his game over the first six years of his career. The case study we looked at was Sadio Mane at Liverpool, and how he added the element of headers to his game. Just look at the numbers.

If Rashford was really going to hit his potential he would need to do something similar.

A few weeks ago with the scores level against Newcastle Rashford had a chance to win it for United when he got on the end of a cross in the 94th minute. He failed.

Some would say Rashford “has to finish that.” Others would say this was about what they expected. Coming into that Newcastle match, Rashford had attempted just 15 headed shots over the past three league seasons (and scoring just one goal). An average of just five headers a season. It was a glaring hole in his game that needed to be fixed. Just seeing him act like a forward and get on the end of a cross was something to get excited about. Now just came the hope that he would build on that.

Well, since then what has he done?

First came the Europa League against FC Sheriff.

Three days later, 15 minutes into the match against West Ham we saw this.

And finally just over 15 minutes after that we saw this bad boy. One where Rashford makes a run and really attacks a ball in the air.

Marcus Rashford is learning how to use his head. He’s learning how to make runs and get into good spaces to score goals. He’s rounding out his game.

That makes him really really dangerous.