Marcus Rashford setback will benefit Erik ten Hag and Manchester United – Daniel Murphy

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There was a time when it would be unthinkable for Marcus Rashford not to be included in an England squad, but when he was once again not called up for the current set of fixtures no one batted an eye.

The Manchester United star missed a penalty in England’s agonizing Euro 2020 final defeat in the summer and hasn’t been involved since. Though he missed the first five matches of the season after the loss to Italy due to being sidelined following shoulder surgery, he has now not been selected in Gareth Southgate’s last three squads purely due to his nosediving form.

Rashford had been a near ever-present in England set-up since earning his first cap in 2016 but has deservedly lost his place this year, with Tammy Abraham, Jarrod Bowen, Harry Kane, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling all being picked ahead of him in attacking positions. Though it must be difficult to take, he can have no complaints.

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The 24-year-old has just put in his worst season since making his senior debut for United, registering his lowest ever goals tally with just five strikes to his name. But it was not just the lack of goals that was a problem, what was really concerning was his demeanour on the pitch. Rashford looked like a player completely devoid of confidence, not making the right runs, sloppy on the ball and his head constantly dropping after every mistake.

An example that really caught the ire of supporters came in the narrow FA Cup victory over Aston Villa, in which he did not follow in a shot on goal which the goalkeeper then spilt and presented an easy chance if only he was there to take it . Rashford then lost his place as a regular in the starting XI to teenager Anthony Elanga.

All of his qualities – of which there are many – seemed to have just evaporated Space Jam style and it’s of no surprise whatsoever that he has been unable to force his way back into the England side. There are simply too many players performing to their best ability at present for him to be warranted a place. In fact, there are probably even players who did not make the squad themselves who are ahead of him in the queue.

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However, while missing out on another squad may come as a blow, it could certainly be of benefit to United, new boss Erik ten Hag and to Rashford himself. Instead of training and being involved in four Nations League matches after a long and grueling season, the forward can now properly take the summer off.

Rashford hasn’t had a proper summer break for some years now but he can finally use this time to rest, refresh, recuperate and prepare himself to come back stronger next season. He seems to have taken the initiative on that front and after a holiday has started his own training before pre-season gets underway on June 27.

He shared a short video of a weight training session on Instagram and looks in phenomenal shape ahead of the new campaign. That effort and dedication surely won’t go unnoticed by Ten Hag and, hopefully, it’s the beginning of a return to his best.

There is no doubt that Rashford has the talent to be a great player for United, we have seen plenty of evidence of that and one poor year – contributed to by injury, fatigue and a flailing team – should not erase that. If he can use this rare time off to his advantage to get in the right shape physically and mentally ahead of the new season then who knows how good he could be under an astute, attacking-minded coach like Ten Hag, who in turn will be grateful for having a skilful and versatile attacker at his disposal.

A lack of international football may sting now, but it’s exactly what Rashford needs.

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