Once a young boy being thrown into the deep end against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League, Marcus Rashford has grown and improved plenty as a player. From scoring goals on his European, league, derby, and international debuts, to scoring fantastic free-kicks to win cup ties against Chelsea, it is clear to see that Rashford is a bright and talented player.
This season has seen Rashford take himself to another level, gathering 14 goals and 4 assists in the Premier League alone. This scout report will take a look at his strengths, and how he has become one of Manchester United’s most important attackers from a tactics standpoint through an in-depth tactical analysis.
1 v 1 prowess
This season, Marcus Rashford has been a constant threat down Manchester United’s left-hand side, and his ability to beat his man has not gone unnoticed. In fact, it has been a key aspect of his play: being able to isolate defenders and wreak havoc on the opposing defender. The stats back this claim up as well, with Rashford averaging 2.19 dribbles per 90, which leaves him in the top 30% of wingers in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Rashford showed this in Manchester United’s mid-January game against Wolves, in which he does exactly that.
Another aspect of his 1 v 1 play Rashford has been able to improve recently has been his ability to exploit opposition defenders’ eagerness to get tight to him to prevent him from getting the ball. He showed this against Everton, in which the opposing full-back (Coleman), looks to jump out of his position to press Rashford, leading to Rashford knocking the ball gracefully around the corner and use some great strength to get past Coleman. He then latches onto the ball using his electrifying pace, which then draws two defending players closer to him, giving Mata space to either take a shot or create a better shooting opportunity.
One thing that is not usually spoken about in regards to Rashford is his ability to pass the ball with precision both at long and short ranges. Along with his 1 v 1 deadliness, it puts defenders between two minds. They can either try to press Rashford and risk getting dribbled past, or leave him space which he can use to create an opportunity, something that Ole has no doubt been working on, as shown through Rashford’s 1.8 passes into the penalty area per 90, which is in the top 12% of Europe’s top 5 leagues’ wingers.
The first example we see here is against Kyle Walker and John Stones. At first, we see them standing off Rashford and they seem to allow him space to run at them. Rashford then makes a darting run between them, up until the point that Stones steps out to try to dispossess Rashford. Rashford then makes a brilliantly weighted through ball into the path of the disguised Jesse Lingard, who has space to run into because of Stones’ decision to come out.
Again, this time against Brighton, we see the defender not wanting to get close to Rashford which gives him time and space to pick a pass, which he times and executes with precision and bypasses three Brighton players which allows Andreas to have a shooting opportunity.
I mentioned earlier that Rashford has been a constant threat from the left, and whilst this is true, it would also be a disservice to him to not mention his ability to move to the right and still be a threat, something that could come in handy later on in his career if Sancho were to join Manchester United and play on the left-hand side.
Looking at Rashford’s assist against Southampton for example, we see him finding himself in the right half-space and not being especially tightly marked. Wan-Bissaka then plays the ball to him, from which he turns and is able to pick out a wonderful cross with the inside of his foot. This results in a goal for Mason Greenwood, but it also shows the vision and technique possessed by Rashford. The most interesting aspect of this, however, is that it proves Rashford is capable of comfortably playing in the right half-space, and that you don’t lose a lot when you move Rashford to the right.
Awareness in pressing
Rashford has the desirable trait of always wanting to win the ball back. In this next example, he illustrates it. Manchester United lose the ball during an attacking transition, but Rashford instantly recognises where Brighton are going to play out, and targets the space. More impressive, however, was his run towards the Brighton player. He curves his run in order to prevent the opposing player from turning back and cuts off all passing options in a short-range. From here, Rashford proceeds to make the tackle, which leads to a throw-in that Manchester United then win the ball back from.
From this example, what we can summarise is that Rashford not only has the eagerness to come back and win the ball after making a long run on the offensive transition, but he also has the awareness to press effectively, which ends up benefiting his team.
Across this analysis, we have seen some of Rashford’s key abilities including his 1 v 1 prowess and his positional versatility. His finishing, which hasn’t been spoken about, has also improved with him being in the top 7% of wingers in Europe’s top 5 leagues for goals per 90. At just 22 years old, Rashford will undoubtedly continue to improve and continue going from strength to strength, whilst also looking to become not only Manchester United’s best player, but potentially the Premier League’s best player.