Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit would give Marcus Rashford the second chance he needs at Man Utd

Erik ten Hag already had a lot to ponder before Cristiano Ronaldo made clear his desire to depart Manchester United this summer. The new manager at Old Trafford is starting a comprehensive rebuild of his squad and now it appears he may need to find a new centre forward before the start of the 2022/23 season.

 

This, however, could be the opportunity Marcus Rashford needs to get his United career back on track. Last season was the most difficult of Rashford’s career to date as the 24-year-old struggled for form throughout the campaign. He lost his place in the Manchester United team and fell out of favour for England too. As things stand, Rashford won’t be included in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the 2022 World Cup.

 

Ten Hag’s appointment already presented Rashford with a chance to turn around his fortunes with the 24-year-old posting images and video clips to his Instagram account of intense offseason training drills. Ronaldo’s exit would underline this. Rashford could be a solution to a problem Manchester United now face up front.

 

Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer predominately used Rashford as a left-sided forward with the 24-year-old seen as a ball carrier rather than a finisher. This, however, is in contract to the role Rashford initially occupied when he first broke through at Old Trafford under Louis van Gaal. Back then, he was a goalscoring centre forward. That’s how he originally made his name.

 

Rashford might not be a penalty box predator in the mould of Harry Kane or Robert Lewandowski, but he can still flourish as a centre forward. Rashford can still run the channels and find the angles to get shot aways while playing through the middle – look at how Sadio Mane was able to make the position work for Liverpool in the second half of last season.

 

Under Ralf Rangnick, it seemed entirely possible that Rashford could be on his way out of Manchester United this summer. The 24-year-old scored just four times in the Premier League last season and appeared bereft of confidence as the Old Trafford outfit suffered their worst campaign for three decades.

 

“I don’t think that he’s not had enough game time,” interim manager Rangnick said when asked if Rashford deserved more of an opportunity to find a role in his Manchester United team. “He’s had 13-14 games since I’ve been here now, he played more games from the start than he didn’t play from the start. I don’t think this is an issue.”

 

There are a lot of moving pieces at Manchester United right now. Speculation around who the Old Trafford club might target has been abundant, but they have moved slower than most fans would have liked. The 2022/23 Premier League season starts in a month, yet United started pre-season without a single new signing through the door.

 

Rashford, however, is ready to go and could benefit from Manchester United’s lack of early signings. If Ronaldo continues to refuse to train ahead of the new season, Rashford could become ten Hag’s first choice centre forward by default. The Dutchman might not have many options, at least if he has to make do with his current squad.

 

Billed as the face of Manchester United’s future, Rashford has lost his way of late, but he isn’t alone in that. Almost everyone still at Old Trafford will be given the chance to prove themselves under the new management team and Rashford’s opportunity might be greater than anyone else’s given how things have unfolded this summer. He must grasp it.

Author: Lucas Carlson