Marcus Rashford has been speaking out about his favourite position at Manchester United, noting that he has adapted to playing as a lone striker during his time with the first team.
The 19-year-old announced himself to the watching world back in February 2016 with a rampaging performance at No.9 against Danish side FC Midtjylland in the Europa League, claiming a match-winning brace and forever writing himself in Old Trafford folklore. He claimed six more goals that season, including a brace against Arsenal and a winner against Manchester City, as Louis van Gaal used the teenager as a lone striker towards the latter stages of the season.
And it was on this wave of momentum that Rashford ended up on the plane to Euro 2016, where Roy Hodgson used him twice from the bench – against Wales and Iceland – as a wide player. Jose Mourinho, hoping to wedge Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney into the same line-up, initially consigned him to the bench before following Hodgson’s suit by playing him out wide. By April, though, with the aforementioned duo out of the side, he was restored to his place up front and expertly guided United to a memorable finish to the 2016/17 season, displaying a sense of maturity that belied his years and certainly wasn’t initially present under Van Gaal.
Reflecting on the constant changes to his position, Rashford noted that the two years of playing either as a lone striker or a winger supporting the No.9 has helped him develop as a footballer.
“I’ve only been playing up front for maybe two years, we’ve usually played with one striker up front in the academy, so it’s different for me,” he said.
“Having two up front is definitely beneficial, and once you get used to it and start building relationships and connections it’s a positive formation to play [in].”
Nobody played more games in the first team than Rashford last season. Many noted that Mourinho’s decision to use him out wide hampered his prospects as a striker, but it soon became clear that having that vantage point from out wide – a chance to see how a striker moves in relation to his teammate on the flank – was crucial for developing his footballing brain.
Rashford received a chance to see the No.9 role from a different angle, to understand what kind of movement works – and what doesn’t – for the whole side, and he will reap the benefits as time passes by.