Equal Time – Marcus Rashford is benefitting from playing in different roles
Back-to-back goals for England over the international break revived the debate surrounding Marcus Rashford. Some believe he must move away from Old Trafford to fulfil his potential. Others argue all that is required is to settle on a regular position. His choice would be centre-forward. I believe the young man from Wythenshawe is benefitting from his current status playing anywhere across the attack. For the time being, at least, that should continue.
Let’s start with the idea that he needs to stick to one position. Which should he pick? If we agree with his belief that he is a central striker, it looks pretty bad for him. In United’s current set-up there’s just room for one central forward and he is a rather large Belgian. The lean Englishman can only hope to be Romelu Lukaku's understudy. That’s a sure-fire way to stunt his development.
The one way for Rashford to be a regular starter as a striker is in a partnership. Jose Mourinho doesn't favour the tactic, employing it rarely. Rashford showed against Spain that he could work alongside another striker, doing so to great effect with Harry Kane. At United, he'd be competing with Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial for the second spot.
A closer look at Rashford’s new squad number emphasises his desire. Rashford's donned the number 10 shirt, the one Mourinho suggested a striker should wear. If he’s to be a 10, he finds himself in direct competition with best mate Jesse Lingard, arguably United’s most important attacking player right now. Again, this isn't a route to regular playing time.
Given the lay of the land, his current situation serves him best.
Since Jose Mourinho joined United, no outfield player played more minutes than Rashford. Mourinho values him. During this time, Rashford played centre-forward, right and left wings. While playing in different positions makes it difficult to build a rhythm, it’s better than not playing at all.
Further, by playing in those different roles, Rashford is learning more about the game. He is developing the art of wing play and running to the byline as well as learning the centre-forward's craft. Over time, he'll be better for it. Beyond learning the positional play and finishing required in his desired role, he'll be schooled in the right runs necessary to receive more service.
Rashford’s future at United is not, despite what some may suggest, in any doubt. He wants to stay; his manager values him. He'll be at Old Trafford for years to come. A time will arrive when he must settle on a position and make it his own. As a 20-year-old still learning his craft, it doesn't have to be now.
Rashford can still learn more by studying all the attacking roles. Ultimately, there’s no better way to gain experience than by playing. If Rashford demanded to play in just one position, he might find his minutes far more limited. How is that an improvement?