Erik ten Hag: Marcus Rashford must earn back his place – like Harry Maguire

Manchester United's manager Erik ten Hag (L) and player Marcus Rashford reacts during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Luton Town FC

Erik ten Hag has told Marcus Rashford to follow the example of Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay by recovering his form and forcing his way back into the Manchester United team.

Rashford was dropped from Ten Hag’s line-up for the first time this season in the midweek win over Chelsea, with a dip in form that has seen him score just twice for United in the current campaign. He missed training on Friday, making him a major injury doubt for Saturday’s match against Bournemouth, and faces a battle to start when he recovers because Alejandro Garnacho is currently United’s in-form forward.

But Ten Hag has pointed to the return of Maguire and McTominay as cases where players’ fortunes can turn, with both looking likely to leave in the summer but now in United’s team, with Maguire named as the Premier League’s player of the month and McTominay the club’s top-scorer this season.

“Rashford is an incredible, good player. You can’t do it with 11 players, he can’t play every game,” said Ten Hag. “He’s not, in this moment, in the form he was last year but I am sure he will get there.

“What I said about Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire: up to them. The team will always line themselves up and the best players who form the best team will play.

“In every season, it will turn and in every season it’s what is the best team. They are here, they are great players and played themselves into the team. That’s what you expect from every player, there has to be dedication to aim for this.”

West Ham made a bid for Maguire in the summer after a season where he was mainly on the bench, and they also had an interest in McTominay to bolster their midfield. Both eventually stayed at United and have been important to staying within sight of the top four.

Maguire is an almost certain starter against Bournemouth, with Victor Lindelof the latest injury concern for Ten Hag, while McTominay has rescued his team against Brentford and Chelsea and will most likely be on the team-sheet.

“Actually from the first moment I saw Scott, he has a very good smell to make it in the box and he is a very good finisher, that is not a surprise when the team, when we bring it and the way we want to play and get the balls to them he will finish,” said Ten Hag.

For Rashford, scorer of 30 goals last season, being on the bench was the latest ruthless move from Ten Hag, who has not been afraid to make bold decisions during his two seasons at the club. Jadon Sancho is still training away from the first-team and Ten Hag says he must buy into his culture club to return.

“It is about a culture and every player has to match certain standards and it was about that,” said Ten Hag. “What will happen there, he knows what he has to do, if he wants to return and it is up to him.”

Jadon Sancho
£70 million signing Jadon Sancho has been exiled from first-team training since September 3 - Rob Newell/CameraSport via Getty Images

Garnacho has been another example of a player forcing his way into contention. Ten Hag was not happy with the teenage Argentina winger for being late for team meetings during his first pre-season at the club. But the 19-year-old has matured since and Ten Hag is happy with his development.

“I was aware there were some issues but these are young players that have to learn what is needed, the lifestyle of a professional footballer. But in the meantime he knows,” said Ten Hag.

“We make players to make this development happen. It was our assessment at the start of the season that we wanted to bring him and wanted to give him the time to deliver what he is doing at this moment. There is big potential and there is a lot to build on but we are happy with his performing at this moment and happy with contribution.

“The foundation and basis is always the defending part of his game but attacking-wise he has the key actions – assists, counter-attacks and scoring goals, that is very important for an attacking player that you have the production.”

Meanwhile, Ten Hag says he is happy with his goalkeepers despite the prospect of losing Andre Onana for a period of time for the Africa Cup of Nations with Cameroon in January. Turkish goalkeeper Altay Bayındır is his understudy after arriving in the summer from Fenerbahce.

“What we need is three very good keepers for a successful season and talent in the back, then the best situation is one or two keepers on loan because you have to develop them all the time,” said Ten Hag.

“We are pleased with the group we have now. We were aware of the situation and we have to manage that, so we have cover. We have a very strong keeper group, especially the first three. They can all play, they are all capable of playing at the highest standards needed. We are happy with the group and we are comfortable.”