Down The Wings

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How do Manchester United benefit from Marcus Rashford’s return?

Marcus Rashford took to Twitter to announce his recovery is ahead of schedule

“Happy Monday. I see the doctor on Friday for a consultation. All being well, I will get the green (light) to join in with contact training again”. These were the words from the man himself, Marcus Rashford, who is recovering from a lengthy shoulder surgery, on his Twitter account – words that will surely bring a smile to the face of anyone associated with Manchester United.

Following what has been a tough couple of weeks for the club, where Solskjaer’s men have been beaten 3 times in their last 4 games, many Reds fans are relishing the prospect of Rashford’s return to the pitch and what his presence could offer to an underwhelming side. To use the term “underwhelming” in reference to a United side that includes the all-time top scorer in men’s football in the shape of Cristiano Ronaldo seems strange, yet the return of Rashford could be pivotal to the team finding its stride once more.

Also eagerly anticipating the winger’s comeback are the coaching staff at Old Trafford. Rashford clocked up 36 goal involvements last campaign, which is reflective of not only his quality and ability, but also his excessive playing time; many fans often questioned the utility of the England international, who was more or less run into the ground come May. It is widely known that the Wythenshawe local was playing with pain-numbing injections to make himself available for his manager for months on end. All of this is evidence of the fact that Solskjaer and the United coaching staff rate Rashford immensely, and that they see him as integral to the starting side for years to come.

The 23-year-old, who has scored 55 Premier League goals since his debut in the 2015/16 season, offers United electric pace off the left flank and an abundance of goals over the course of a season, but one of Rashford’s biggest contributions this year could come in an indirect manner. Throughout the Norwegian manager’s tenure at Old Trafford (and now more than ever before), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has become the target of heavy criticism regarding his use of both Scott McTominay and Fred in the midfield pivot in the favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. With Rashford coming back into the side, the manager surely has to return Paul Pogba back to the midfield, subsequently seeing one of McTominay or Fred dropped to the bench. Fans have become increasingly frustrated with the inadequacies of the Scot and Brazilian pairing, and will be relieved if the manager does what many expect him to and puts Paul Pogba in the midfield.

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For lots of fans, myself included, this would almost be the turn of a new page for Solskjaer in the sense that even though the style of play has been dire and the results haven’t been particularly flattering, he would now have the chance to play on the front foot more, create more chances, and ultimately play a better brand of football that is more reminiscent of the ‘United Way’, that creates more chances for the main man upfront and is more pleasing on the eye. Surely this would be the case if Rashford came in at left-wing, as the probable front 6 would then consist of a holding midfielder alongside Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo, not to mention the bench options of Jadon Sancho, Edison Cavani and Anthony Martial if this were the case; the return of Rashford absolutely has to prompt a more attacking outlay in matches, otherwise, the pressure will rise and rise on the coaches, who have hardly covered themselves in glory at the start of the 2021/22 campaign. It may be wise, though, to reserve judgement, with Solskjaer recently stating that Ronaldo and Cavani will “be a good partnership as well”, connotating that he may want them both in the team at once. To add to the suspense, the manager recently described the infamous ‘McFred’ as “very instrumental together”, referencing how he likes their “energy and desire”. Make of that what you will.

It is important to stress, however, that the MBE man does state he will soon be back “all being well”. If everything does go to plan, fans would likely see Rashford return against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on October 16th. The reason for this is, with an international break before that game, it makes sense for Marcus to rest and not rush back too soon. There is no possibility whatsoever of him making the squad this Wednesday and Saturday against Villarreal and Everton respectively.

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So, in a nutshell, the United fans and coaches alike will be eagerly anticipating the return of a man who has proven to be integral to Solskjaer’s plans over the last couple of years. “All being well”, Rashford will soon return to the side and will inadvertently bench either Scott McTominay or Fred, who have both been underwhelming, as Paul Pogba will surely come back into the midfield. Rashford will look to elevate his tally of 55 Premier League goals in a Red Devils side that plays more attacking and entertaining football in the true style of the ‘United Way’, starting on October 16th away at Leicester City.

Although, as is always the case with Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, fans will simply have to wait and see over the coming weeks as to what the Norwegian gaffer has in mind. United play Villarreal tomorrow in the second matchday of the Champions League group stage, as they hope to build momentum heading into a weekend clash with Merseyside outfit Everton.

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