Marcus Rashford has looked woeful of late with his unimpressive performances with even United interim manager Ralf Rangnick being unable to explain his loss of form in recent weeks. There is no doubt that Rashford is going through a slump but this is a slight curveball that he is set to overcome.
Marcus Rashford has looked devoid of ideas in recent weeks as evidenced by his lackadaisical displays in which the forward has struggled to produce a fruitful display for the Manchester club in the past 12 games. It's very simple really; the Englishman is suffering a crisis of confidence.
The 24-year-old has been borne with the burden of trying to catapult Manchester United back to the stature of the club they want to be. Playing through debilitating injuries consistently for a couple of years while being shoehorned into different positions under several managers has seemingly taken its toll on the England international.
Over his six-year professional career, he’s averaged 0.30 goals a game in the league and that has dropped significantly to 0.18 this season. The Englishman is amongst a long list of players that have graduated from the United academy and expectations are slightly different from an academy graduate at Old Trafford.
The fans at the Stretford End expect every single player to be lucky enough to represent the badge on the front of their shirts. Effort and hard work are the minimum that is expected and Rashford hasn't exactly been the shining light that displays all the virtues that embody the United emblem over recent weeks.
Marcus Rashford found himself in dire straits which were on full display in his last start at United's unconvincing 1-0 FA Cup victory over Aston Villa. The forward looked dejected as he exited the pitch as he was replaced after a dismal performance. Even while having a bad game over the years, the England international's commitment and drive were never in question so why is the forward underperforming at the moment?
Some fans at Old Trafford turned on Rashford, who was vilified on social media for his string of lacklustre performances, and former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand admitted that “Marcus Rashford’s body language was an issue” earlier this month. The forward has accepted that his recent performances have not been up to the level that is expected of him as he himself said in a tweet.
The United man should be fit and firing at this pivotal juncture of the season as he underwent surgery to fix all the injuries that have plagued him. There could be a few reasons as to why attacker is failing to hit the heights expected of him.
There have been mooted murmurings among observers and critics that the 24-year-old has been distracted by his endeavours outside the pitch as he tends to tackle child food poverty in his homeland. Suggestions have been made that he needs to spend more time working on getting back to full fitness and focus more on footballing matters to rediscover his best form.
However, blaming Rashford's less than stellar performances solely on his charity work is a foolhardy notion as the United star’s commitment to the cause has been exemplified by his efforts to recuperate from his shoulder injury during the beginning of the season according to Jason Burt. The shoulder issue meant that he could not do the cardiovascular work he needed while also being unable to run properly. It means that in the absence of a pre-season where training is focused on fitness, he is still not fully fit.
Even so, Rashford scored three goals in his first four games but his form dipped, he lost his place and a loss in form ensued. A growing cloud over managerial uncertainty combined with a change in tactics under different circumstances have also played their part.
While Rashford has accepted personal responsibility for his dismal form it could be argued that the English winger has yet to find the right coach to hone his immense capabilities. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was earmarked as the mentor that would take his game to the next level but reports that surfaced after his sacking revealed that the former United striker rarely took charge of training during his time in charge.
Kieran McKenna and Michael Carrick were primarily responsible for handling training. Rashford will be hopeful that interim manager Rangnick can help him improve his game but the team is enduring a mixed run of form of late which means that the German has plenty of other problems to solve at the moment.
The German has also not figured out where to play the Englishman who has been deployed in three different positions ranging from playing as the leading man as well as playing as a full-back under the former Leipzig coach.
Rashford is not entirely guilt-free as he has been playing in his preferred position on the left-hand side of United's attack in recent games and proved to be underwhelming once again. In a week where Ronaldo questioned the mentality of some of his colleagues, you could be excused for pointing the finger at Rashford. He has looked uninterested in recent times but this is a United-born and bred player who wears his heart on his sleeve.
This is still a player who scored 21 goals and registered 15 assists in 59 appearances last season although that did not stop him from being the subject of criticism for not scoring more. Rangnick had revealed that he was puzzled by his forward's lack of confidence on the pitch but asserted that he has been impressed with Rashford in training in recent weeks
"Actually I don't know. I think he's trying hard. In training he was doing well in the last couple of days, that's why he was quite rightly in the starting XI. Yes [confidence is important] especially for strikers - it's important that they score goals on and off, that there are moments of success. Of course it would be good, for example, for Marcus if he could score a goal but as long as he's trying, as long as he's training well I don't see that much of a problem," the German told Sky Sports earlier this month.
The Englishman came on as a substitute in United’s Premier League encounter against Brentford on Wednesday and didn’t offer much although he was there at the right place at the right time as he finished emphatically in the 77th minute off a Bruno Fernandes through ball to break his goal-scoring duck. It is perhaps a sign that a change in fortunes could be on the cards for Rashford as United look to finish a tumultuous campaign so far strongly.
The English winger will look to kick on from here and help his side claim a top-four finish as well as display a strong showing in the Champions League. The ushering in of a permanent manager as rumoured by the potential appointments of attacking managers such as Mauricio Pochettino, Eric Ten Haag, Zinedine Zidane, etc will also allow the United star to follow a set course of plan and fast track his development in a new era.