In Sports by Oluwaseun Samuel on the 25th, March, 2020

How Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s U-turn on Marcus Rashford is benefitting Manchester United

The development and positional maturation of Marcus Rashford has been one of the primary storylines of Manchester United’s season. The attacker, who has always had a penchant for playing in a wide attacking role, finally settled in as a right-footed left-winger

While injury has curtailed his overall impact on the season, Rashford has scored 14 goals and four assists in just 1882 Premier League minutes. It has been a breakout campaign for a player who is coming of age as United’s main man.

But of the 22 starts he has made this season, six have come as a centre-forward. He scored only two goals in those matches and United won just one. In fact, Rashford scored 12 of his 14 goals as a left-winger. Three of his four assists also came from out wide.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had initially earmarked Rashford as the man to lead the line for United when he arrived last term but made a U-turn earlier this season, moving him back out wide – and it is a decision that has brought the very best out of a player who is now establishing himself as an elite Premier League attacker.

Perhaps Rashford’s standout performance of the season came in United’s 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in December. He scored both goals, won the penalty that he later converted and repeatedly ran a lacklustre Spurs defence ragged. “It was the best performance Marcus Rashford has had under me,” Solskjaer confirmed after the match. “It’s like he was back on the playground, we just want these players to express themselves and have fun.”

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Jose Mourinho, who extolled Rashford’s attitude and potential during his time at Manchester United, echoed those sentiments. “When he plays from the left he is really dangerous and I knew that and gave the players the best information about it,” he said. “His first goal is a typical Rashford goal coming on the inside. Our boys knew that clearly.”

They are not pushed into bulldozing centre-backs who physically overpower them. They have time to work with the ball and acres of space to run into. And when the service is right, they invariably score.

The role points to a new style of attacker: a pacy, direct, goalscoring centre-forward who has the willingness and technical skill to start out wide. In this role, Rashford, Martial and now Aubameyang are all shining, and United and Arsenal are reaping the rewards.

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