One of the biggest decisions facing Erik ten Hag at Manchester United this summer is what to do about Marcus Rashford.
The Englishman struggled badly last season, scoring just five goals in all competitions. Interim boss Ralf Rangnick was unwilling to give him game-time, starting him just nine times in the Premier League during his time in charge at Old Trafford.
Rashford burst onto the scene after being handed his debut by Louis van Gaal in 2016, but has slipped back in recent months. Here, Mirror Football looks at what the managers he has played under at United have said about him as Ten Hag weighs up his options.
Louis Van Gaal
Van Gaal handed him both his European and Premier League debut, with Rashford scoring twice on both occassions. Following his double against Arsenal in February 2016, the Dutchman hailed the then-18-year-old.
“Unbelievable. When you are 18 years old and you come in, I can understand last thursday because you are coming in and do your thing without any pressure. But the second time, is always more difficult and he played a very good match,” he told Sky Sports.
“He did the things I asked of him. He scored again, four goals in two matches. You get the chance and you have to perform, you have to do the things what we are asking. I have always said it is not a matter of age it is a matter of quality. And he shows it. ”
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Rashford did have periods where he struggled under Van Gaal, being taken off at half-time in a defeat to Tottenham later that season. But he responded by scoring one of the goals that sent United into the 2016 FA Cup semi-finals, to Van Gaal’s delight.
“He’s very focused on his work and that I admire when you are so young and there is so much attention now. He is scoring so many important goals but he can cope with that attention and focus. When you have criticism he can cope with criticism also, he can say: ‘Yes, manager, you are right and I have to do that.’ “I think it’s fantastic because not a lot of players can see their self-image in a match,” Van Gaal said.
Rashford became more of a key player under Van Gaal’s replacement Jose Mourinho. But their relationship steadily fractured during the Portuguese’s reign, such as in May 2018 when Mourinho hung the forward out to dry following a dreadful performance in a defeat to Brighton.
“I thought for some of them the possibility to start a game, the possibility to give reason to the ones that during the season there is criticism to my choices ‘Why always Lukaku?’. You have the answer why always Lukaku. Now you see why some players do not play all the time. Maybe now you will not ask questions why some are not playing every week, “he said.
The following campaign, Mourinho faced criticism for Rashford’s perceived lack of playing time. But the then-United boss fired back with a stunning rant, detailing his exact number of minutes.
“Speaking about Marcus, I think I can expect that Sunday I’m going to be highly criticized for not playing him tomorrow because some of the boys are really obsessed with me and some of them they have I think a problem with some compulsive lies, “Mourinho fumed in September 2018.
“So, I can expect that Sunday some of them they will wake up in the morning and, as always, the first thing they think, that comes to their mind, is Jose Mourinho, so I can imagine on Sunday I am going to be criticized for not playing Marcus.
“But it is not my fault, he is suspended, so probably you should remind them that he is suspended, and he can not play. Performances with England, of course I’m happy. He played well, he competed well, he scored and especially in a period where he comes with some sadness after his suspension and it was very good that he did that.
On the 16-17 season, Marcus Rashford played 32 Premier League matches, 11 Europa League matches, including the final, three FA Cup matches, six League Cup matches, including the final, and the Community Shield. He had 53 appearances but if you want to take to the minutes of play, he played 3,068 minutes and if you want to divide that by 90 minutes of the matches, he played 34.2 matches of 90 minutes on the 16-17.
“On the 17-18, he played 35 matches in the Premier League, eight in the Champions League, five in the FA Cup, including the final, three League Cup matches and the European Super Cup final.
He played a total of 52 matches with 2,676 minutes. If you divide that by 90, it gives 29.7 matches. So, with me in two seasons, he had 105 appearances, 5,744 minutes, 63.7 matches of 90 minutes, including five finals, so the people that is talking about his minutes I think they are a bit confused. ”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Rashford’s most successful time at United by far came under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Though he was ruled out of the first part of this season as he recovered from shoulder surgery, Solskjaer was looking forward to having him back fit.
“I know we’ll see the best of Marcus in the years to come. He’s done remarkable things at a young age and he’s now coming into his best age for a footballer. He’s learning. He’s getting more and more experience, “Solskjaer said last October.
“He’s had time to reflect on what he’s done off the pitch as well, because he’s done some fantastic things, and now maybe prioritize his football and focus on football. He’s got a challenge on his hands here at Man United and a challenge to play for England and I think Marcus is one of those who takes up those challenges.
“He’s going to express himself and his talent and he knows we want a lot from him, but also we’ll give him the time to get back to what he was and what he can be. He does look fresh. He looks keen, he looks fit. He’s bulked up a little bit, some muscle. Of course, he had to bear a lot of responsibility for us because we had injuries and different players out and at such a young age he’s done so much for the team. “
Solskjaer was sacked just over a month after backing Rashford to return to his best quickly. And under his replacement Rangnick, the Englishman endured a dreadful time, with the German frequently demanding an improvement in his performances.
“Marcus, it’s no secret that he is not having his best time right now, it has to do with rhythm and confidence as well, yeah, again it’s our job to help him to get this confidence back and that is why I decided to bring him on, “Rangnick said in April.
“In the end he has to do it himself obviously, but the only thing we can do is speak to him regularly and tell him what we expect from him and what he should do. The rest has to be done by himself.
“There are quite a few examples this season of players, some of them are still here with us and one or two of them are no longer here, have shown that it is possible to develop within a couple of weeks a level of confidence where you “can be a different player again. We all know that Marcus can play better, but again in the end the steps he has to take himself.”