Marcus Rashford’s uncertain future is a damning indictment of Manchester United mismanagement – Josh Williams

As Ralf Rangnick prepared to take charge of his first Manchester derby on Sunday afternoon, Marcus Rashford was his only recognized striker. Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo were both absent due to injuries, and Anthony Martial left the club on loan in January.

Despite the squad situation, Rashford started on the bench. Rangnick opted for 4-4-2, yet fielded Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes up front as his two most advanced attackers.

It was a bold tactical move, and one which epitomized Rashford’s struggles over the past 12 months in particular. He looks like a shadow of his former self in a red shirt of late.

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The Reds’ academy graduate has experienced a turbulent campaign. He missed the first few months of the season due to injury and once he returned to action, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was on the verge of being dismissed.

Since the Englishman emerged as a prospect at Old Trafford in 2016, he’s been coached by four different managers – excluding Michael Carrick – each of whom have shaped him according to their own principles and requirements.

Still just 24 years old, Rashford has been used on the left flank, the right flank and through the middle over the past few years. Moreover, United’s playing style – with and without the ball – has also shifted roughly every 12 to 18 months.

Louis van Gaal was an advocate of possession, whereas Jose Mourinho made strategic adjustments in every match according to the opposition, and placed less of an emphasis on keeping the ball. Solskjaer’s team thrived most when able to retreat into a block before counter-attacking, whereas Rangnick favors pressing high up the field.

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The homegrown talent simply hasn’t been presented with a platform to prosper and evolve. The environment around him has been inconsistent, and players are often products of their environments.

Rashford’s talent is undeniable. Upon reflection of his skill set, he is not too dissimilar to other wide forwards in the Premier League, such as Son Heung-min, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Jarrod Bowen, Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka.

The Manchester-born attacker is fast, penetrative, direct, skilful and intent on scoring goals, but United haven’t deployed him in a fixed role for a long enough period of time for him to master the art of wing play.

Rashford is still too inclined to shoot from far out when his teammates are available as passing options. His movements and decisions of him are still off the cuff, and he seems desperate for his raw qualities to be coached and harnessed.

Instead of being taught how to perform to a higher standard in one specific role on the field, he’s had to battle against constant competition. Martial and Pogba have occupied Rashford’s preferred position at times over the years, and now Jadon Sancho is doing the same after being signed last summer.

Reports are now beginning to emerge about Rashford and whether his future lies away from Old Trafford. If he was to eventually leave, his departure from him would act as a damning indictment of United’s mismanagement.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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