The to-do list is already growing for Manchester United’s new permanent manager long before they even arrive at Old Trafford. Defeat to Man City last weekend emphasized just how much needs to be done to ever return to the top of English football. Another similar performance this weekend against Tottenham could make it a sizeable task to even get back into the Champions League.
Throw into the mix dressing room discontent and a core of players looking to leave this summer, and United’s new manager might already be looking at a three or four-year project before they can say the team is ready to compete again.
United already knew they’d be losing a number of key players at the end of the season, with Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Edinson Cavani amongst those who are out of contract. Cristiano Ronaldo could follow suit if a top-four finish fails, he won’t be the only disillusioned player looking for a way out.
READ MORE: Marcus Rashford considering Manchester United future
The news this week that Marcus Rashford could also look to leave this summer was hardly a hammer blow to supporters, but rather a sad reality check of the way this season played out for him.
If you were to put all the key ingredients of a United player together, they would form someone in the mold of Rashford. He’s a local lad, an academy graduate who broke into the senior side and a player who made his mark despite all the odds that were stacked against him.
Indeed, Rashford has always been at his best when he has been up against it, defying probability, whether it was against Midtjylland on his debut or against Paris Saint-Germain on a night when his club needed him most. The fact a player like Rashford would even consider leaving his boyhood club at the age of 24 is as much a failure of the system as it is of the individual’s misfortunes on the field, but it could well be a clean break needed from both parties to finally address their problems.
There is always the risk of a player becoming stagnant at a club after such a long period of time, and it seems to be the case for the England international, who is now in his seventh season of first-team football. Despite his tender age, Rashford has already seen so much during his United career that it could well be the perfect time for change in order to rejuvenate his fortunes.
It could also be the ideal time for United to freshen up their squad and finally impose a strict new policy of only keeping players who have a clear immediate impact or long-term role in mind at the club. Rashford is no longer a guaranteed starter in any particular formation, and it is hard to pinpoint a position which he could make his own in the years ahead either.
The harsh truth is that, despite his unquestionable ability, Rashford is still not considered a specialist in any position, given he is too wasteful to ever hold down a central striking role, is one of a number of inverted left wingers at the club and has no desire to play on the right wing.
As things stand, the Wythenshawe-born wide man is no more than a squad player, someone who is still a useful asset but by no means priceless to a side which is still looking to reinforce their attacking line with another young forward this summer. United’s decision might also be influenced by the fact that they have so many young options eager to impress, all of whom could be considered viable alternatives, if not replacements for Rashford.
Jadon Sancho was signed for the right wing, but already looks far better on the left, and Anthony Elanga himself also favors the same inverted left wing role as Rashford. Throw into the mix the fact that promising youngsters Shola Shoretire and Alejandro Garnacho both like to cut inside onto their stronger feet from out wide, and it adds further debate to whether they should cash in on Rashford while they still can.
The 24-year-old is out of contract at United next year, but the club has the option of an additional year, meaning there is no immediate panic about deciding his future, though it is certainly an underlying issue.
Under a new manager, Rashford could once again establish himself as one of the first names on the team sheet at Old Trafford, though with so many promising youngsters in the production pipeline, it wouldn’t be such a disaster if he didn’t.
Sign up to our United newsletter so you never miss an update from Old Trafford this season.
Catch up on all the latest Reds headlines in our United section
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.