At the beginning of August, the stage was set for Marcus Rashford to redeem his underwhelming performances from last season. Manchester United appointed a new manager with fresh ideas and backed him in the transfer market, bringing in hungry talent totaling £229.6m in transfer fees - their highest expenditure ever during a market window. These signings reinvigorated United’s first team lineup by adding more quality to the roster, while also providing much-needed competition for places. The system Erik Ten Hag is implementing emphasizes high-energy play and structural stability, moving the line of engagement closer to the goal, which benefits the attacking forwards like Rashford.
Marcus Rashford embodies everything it means to be a Manchester United player. The native Mancunian exhibits a professional attitude by working hard for the team and representing the club in a positive light off the pitch. Despite a poor season by his standards last year, many Red Devil fans quickly forget just how important the Englishman is to the trajectory of Manchester United. He’s been a bright spot during an era full of dark blemishes in the nine years following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
After starting the season on the left wing, Ten Hag moved Rashford to the center-forward position. According to football reporter Neil Custis, the Englishman requested the position change to Ten Hag during pre-season, who said he would get his chance playing down the middle against Liverpool. Rashford seized the opportunity, and in his four games playing this position, the English international has scored three goals while providing two assists.
Marcus Rashford adds dynamism to the center-forward role, making that position his own while Anthony Marital recovers from an injury and Cristiano Ronaldo catches up on match fitness after missing pre-season. Rashford is explosive in his movement, utilizing his pace to run in behind and strength to hold up the ball to support United’s build-up. In Ten Hag’s style of play, the defense starts from the front, which compliments Rashford’s athleticism and stamina to press the defensive line to regain possession higher up the pitch.
The modern striker isn’t just a goal scorer; they’re also a creator. This can be seen in how Manchester City and Liverpool played over the last four years. Both sides preferred using goal scoring wingers connected by a center forward with a high work rate, who was often a repurposed winger. They played with fluid front threes capable of interchanging positions during the match, a style that also suits Rashford, which may indicate how his game will continue to evolve.
While it’s still early days, it’s exciting to see Rashford and the Manchester United squad returning to form. There is still plenty of football to be played, but it’s apparent the building blocks are being placed by Erik Ten Hag to create a tactfully fluid side that utilizes the strengths of their star players. With a new manager in place and the World Cup on the horizon, that extra incentive is there to start the season strong.