Sir Alex ends Marcus Rashford debate in grim omen for Man Utd rivals

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Marcus Rashford is a brilliant forward, but Manchester United used to have at least three of them. Playing him in the middle isn’t a solution; buying someone as good as him to play in the middle is.

“Well I don’t think he’s a striker,” Sir Alex Ferguson said, correcting a reporter’s question on Marcus Rashford’s rich vein of goalscoring form.

One off-hand comment from the legendary Manchester United manager is enough to end a debate that should never have been. “He operates from the left-hand side which is fantastic,” Fergie continued, with an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ air, which when combined with acknowledgement of who’s talking, is enough to make anyone suggesting Rashford should play as the United No.9 feel very foolish indeed.

The argument, in its most simple terms, was ‘if Rashford is scoring this many goals from the wing, imagine how many he would score down the middle?’ And actually, Rashford has scored nine of his 25 goals this season when operating in a central role. But there’s also little doubt that he plays his best football from wide, where he can front up defenders and drift into the middle when it suits him.

Asked about his preferred position in December, Rashford said: “I think it depends on opposition, it depends on the personality you’re playing against. More often than not I prefer to play on the left but if there’s a weakness in the middle or if there’s a certain player I feel I can exploit I like to have the freedom to move and do that.”

That horses for courses attitude is very Fergie, and also, in quite the welcome omen for Manchester United fans, seemingly very Ten Hag. Rashford has played across all three of the forward positions this season, with Ten Hag utilising his most potent attacking threat where he can most hurt the opposition. But unlike Fergie, the options Ten Hag has at his disposal also mean Rashford has played in those different positions out of necessity as well as tactical ingenuity.

“Unfortunately for us he’s the main source of goals, we could do with an extra one,” Sir Alex added.

As things stand, despite United’s excellent form which has given them a chance of winning further trophies this season, of the forwards currently on the books, only Rashford would be playing in a top-level team under Sir Alex Ferguson. And, as his comments confirm, there’s no way Rashford would be his first-choice No.9.

A winger scoring goals shouldn’t be turned into a striker because the strikers are not scoring goals. That’s a problem with the striker, not the winger. And although a front three of Jadon Sancho, Rashford and Antony is more eye-catching than Rashford, Wout Weghorst and Antony, reducing the effectiveness of your best forward isn’t very Manchester United, where the Ferguson solution would be to buy or develop a striker and right winger to match the brilliance of the guy on the left.

Tevez Rooney Ronaldo Credit: Alamy
Tevez Rooney Ronaldo Credit: Alamy

That’s both a concern for Manchester United fans, given a striker matching Rashford’s quality would cost north of £100m and they will have to sell half of their squad to make that much money, and fans of their rivals, who must be a tad concerned at just how much better this Ten Hag side could be should they land Victor Osimhen or someone of similar ability.

Should Sancho or Antony reach their potential on the right flank, United could have one of the most feared forward lines in Europe once again. That would never be the case with Rashford down the middle.

It’s not Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo, but it might not end up being too far off. And that is presumably the aim for Ten Hag, who whether as a result of their candlelit dinners or not, appears to be very much aligned with Sir Alex Ferguson about playing wingers on the wing and strikers as strikers.

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