The England international welcomed Ronaldo’s signing last summer, not least because he believed that, as with Edinson Cavani, here was a player he could learn from having had to take on so much responsibility since he was thrown into the team by Louis van Gaal for a Europa League tie almost six years ago. Rashford would appear to be a player who is crying out to be coached.
But Van Gaal did not last long as manager; Jose Mourinho seemed to resent the focus on Rashford and the fact he was the poster boy of United’s academy. There had been hope that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as a former striker, would be able to school Rashford on how to improve. Instead, Solskjaer barely took a training session at United and preferred to delegate to his coaching staff. When Rashford did approach him he was not helped.
It means that Rashford has never actually been developed; he has never had a manager who has put his arm around him and said, “Right, let’s make you the best possible player we can.” Maybe that coach will be Ralf Rangnick although, understandably, the German is preoccupied right now, in the fire-fighting and crisis management that has not stopped at United since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
The dressing room discontent has not helped, even if it has been denied. There are players who want out, senior players, influential players. It is no secret that Paul Pogba intends to go when his contract expires this summer, as does Jesse Lingard, while Anthony Martial has reiterated his desire to quit and return to France. All are big personalities among the squad and it has been allowed to fester and have a draining effect on the team. It brings the mood down.
So has the perennial sense of failure. There have been perceptive comments about the poor body language in the team and the belief that they are playing for themselves; that a player knows that if he scores then the media scrutiny will fall elsewhere. And whatever the denials, that has not helped the togetherness.
Fitness has also been a big issue – as has the fact that Rashford has never, properly, nailed down a position. This season alone he has played as a central striker, in all three positions behind that striker and even at wing-back. It always seems that Rashford is the player who is moved to accommodate others and, understandably, it does not suggest a great deal of faith in his ability. Perhaps it also takes advantage of his willingness to do what he can for the team. He has been shoe-horned in especially when Pogba was fit and wanted to play on the left.