In The Firing Line

Phot Credit: The Sun

For a young man Marcus Rashford has played an awful lot of football. Given the number of games he's featured in over the last four seasons you could easily forget that he's only 21, so he still has a long way to go before we can say he's the finished article, yet despite this some fans want to write him off. After the Arsenal game the other day he received a huge amount of criticism on Twitter for an ineffective performance, although none of the people calling him Rashfraud acknowledged the fact that going into the match he was a doubt due to the hip injury that kept him out of the squad for the Rochdale game just five days earlier. Hip injuries don't clear up overnight (ask Roy Keane), so there is a very good chance that he played through the pain because the squad is thin and Martial is out injured.

When Rashford first burst onto the big stage with two goals on his debut against Midtjylland, quickly followed by two more and an assist against Arsenal in his second game, he was the darling of the Old Trafford faithful. So what has changed since then? Has his form dipped so badly that he no longer deserves a place in the starting eleven?

Let's see what the stats say.

2015/16

In 18 games Rashford scored 8 goals and was responsible for 2 assists, which is a healthy return for a teenager on his debut season. It is worth noting that his stats were slightly skewed, in that exactly half his goals and assists came in his first 2 games.

2016/17

Statistically this was Rashford's worst season as his goals per game ratio was just under 1 in 5 games and his assists per game was almost 1 in 9 games. It is also the season in which he featured in the most number of matches. So given that he was only 18 and playing second fiddle to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, you can understand why his form wasn't great.

2017/18

Rashford stats improved this season, which also coincided with United's improved league form, as they finished inside the Top 3 for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Goals per game was 1 in 4 and assists per game was just under 1 in 6, which isn't too bad when you consider that he didn't consistently play in any one position.

2018/19

Despite the overall downturn in United's form (apart from that miracle purple patch) Rashford's stats improved again. Goals per game was just over 1 in 3.5 and assists per game was 1 in 5.2, so by any objective measure he was moving in the right direction and slowly blossoming into the player we all knew he could become.

2019/20

And what of this season?  Just today I read that he was burnt out after playing too much too young, that he only gets picked because Solskjær has a 'blind spot' when it comes to local players, and that he should be sold to Watford because they're on his level. If this is your opinion then you may need to think again because so far Rashford is having his most productive season ever. It's early doors and he's only featured in 8 games, but with 3 goals and 2 assists there is every reason to expect that his recent performances will prove to be a temporary dip in an otherwise upwards trajectory.

In my opinion, selling Lukaku without signing an adequate replacement was a mistake, and Rashford is currently suffering because of this. The best thing that Solskjær can do right now is give him some time off, to rest, recover and come back stronger. I felt this way before the Arsenal game and was surprised when his name appeared on the teamsheet, so I'll be keeping a close eye on the lineup for AZ Alkmaar, hoping to see Greenwood get another chance to shine.

Players like Rashford don't come along every season, so writing them off after a couple of bad games is shortsighted and naive. He's versatile, quick, and has a keen eye for goal, which are qualities that don't disappear overnight. 

At times like these we should remember the old saying, form is temporary but class is permanent.

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