Marcus Rashford has been challenged to haul himself out of his slump by Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick.
Despite the absences of Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani due to injury and illness, United started their game against Leicester without a recognized center forward as Rashford was among the substitutes.
Rashford was belatedly introduced in the second half in the 1-1 draw on Saturday evening but the impact was minimal as his struggles continued, having scored just five times in 27 appearances this season.
He was omitted from the most recent England squad but while Rangnick is optimistic Rashford can quickly begin to flourish again, the German thinks the 24-year-old bears ultimate responsibility for doing so.
“Marcus, it’s no secret that he is not having his best time right now,” Rangnick said. “It has to do with rhythm and confidence, it’s our job to help him to get this confidence back.
“The only thing we can do is speak to him regularly and tell him what we expect from him and what he should do. The rest has to be done by himself.
“It is possible to develop within a couple of weeks a level of confidence where you can be a different player again.
“We all know that Marcus can play better, but in the end he has to take the steps himself.”
Fred earned United a point after Kelechi Iheanacho had opened the scoring but the hosts were grateful for the video assistant referee as James Maddison’s goal was chalked off for a foul in the build-up.
United lacked cohesion in the final third overall, with Bruno Fernandes operating as a false nine and Paul Pogba playing higher up the pitch in an opening half where clear-cut chances were sparse.
United’s hopes of finishing in the top four were dented by this result, and Rangnick pinpointed one specific area where they were outclassed by the Foxes.
“I don’t think we have a lack of character but what was obvious in some parts of the game is that we were second best with regards to physicality,” Rangnick said.
“On a day when we are fluid and in our rhythm we have shown in the past we can outplay other teams. But here it was difficult. Leicester were aggressive and physical in many parts of the game.
“Whenever there was body contact we were too often second best and that is something we have to get better at for the rest of this season but even more so for next season.
“This team does not lack technical players, it can do with more physicality.”
Leicester’s season has been blighted by injuries to key personnel but numbers are returning and with it has come an uptick in form, with just one defeat in their last top-flight matches.
They are ninth in the standings but have played fewer games than the teams around them and boss Brendan Rodgers has not given up hope of finishing in the top seven and European football next season.
“We can, especially when you think we have four games in hand on some teams,” he said. “It’s going to be a tall order for us with the games coming thick and fast now.
“But the most important thing this season was to finish with momentum, finish at the level we know that we can play and that will be good for us going into next season.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.