Versatility can be a useful trait in football, but for some players, the ability to play in a range of positions can actually become a hindrance.
Take Marcus Rashford, for example. He burst onto the scene at Manchester United as an enigmatic forward and was propelled forward by a sheer desire to play anywhere on the pitch, such was his craving for a chance in the first-team.
His breakthrough campaign came as a center-forward amid a striker shortage at the club, and he hit the ground running with such velocity that he would keep that role until the end of his debut season.
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However, with the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the end of that campaign, Rashford was shifted out to the left wing, making occasional appearances through the middle, but operating mainly as an inverted winger.
A year later, it was the arrival of Romelu Lukaku that further diminished Rashford’s hopes of playing through the middle, and throughout his United career, most of his appearances in a central role have been due to a lack of alternatives, rather than because of his own merits in the position.
In total, Rashford has played 147 times as a left winger for United, 113 times as a center-forward and 38 times as a right winger.
The Manchester Evening News revealed in March Rashford was considering his future at the club after he was left out of the team for the 4-1 loss to City despite being the only available senior player with experience of operating as a striker.
United have made it clear they have no plans to sell the 24-year-old this summer, and Rashford is believed to be excited by the arrival of Erik ten Hag and the chance to impress the new manager.
Staying injury free will be a key factor in determining his success next season, but so too will be nailing down a regular position if he is to steady his fluctuating form. The issue for Rashford is knowing what that role will be.
United are overstocked with right-footed wingers on the left, and this season Jadon Sancho, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Anthony Elanga and even Cristiano Ronaldo all played that role.
Playing Rashford there next season would not only add to the senior selection dilemma but it would also limit the opportunities available to youngsters Alejandro Garnacho, Shola Shoretire and Hannibal Mejbri – all of whom have featured there at youth level.
Instead, it makes more sense for Ten Hag to try and use Rashford as a solution on the right wing, though the player has never played his best football there previously.
The 24-year-old’s game is more about cutting inside onto his stronger foot and using favorable angles to arch efforts at goal, rather than playing as a traditional winger who looks to beat a defender and put crosses into the box.
However, if Rashford really does want a long-term future at United and wants guaranteed playing time ahead of the World Cup, then he will need to adapt his game and make the role his own.
It will also be interesting to see how Ten Hag rates Rashford as a center-forward considering the club’s need for a back-up to Ronaldo next season.
United are still eager to sign a striker in order to offset the loss of Edinson Cavani as a free agent at the end of the month, but there is an appreciation that two forwards are needed this summer, even if they only manage to get one.
While he hasn’t shown enough to lead the line for United from the start, if he manages to find his confidence and hit form again, then Rashford might well still have a role to play as an understudy to Ronaldo next season too.
Ten Hag needs to make a Rash decision.