Manchester United’s treatment of Marcus Rashford makes little sense

After exploding into world football as a teenager at Old Trafford, United starlet Marcus Rashford’s career seems to have stalled under Portuguese tactician Jose Mourinho. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at where it all went wrong for the English attacker. 

February 25, 2016. Manchester United are squaring up against Danish outfit FC Midtjylland in the Europa League. After an injury to winger Anthony Martial, manager Louis Van Gaal opts to introduce a 19-year-old Marcus Rashford. What unfolded next is the stuff of folklore. The young winger terrorised the Jutland side, scoring twice as United thrashed them 5-1.

On his very first start for his hometown club, Rashford had become The Red Devils’ youngest ever scorer in Europe. Three days later, Van Gaal handed him a start against Arsenal in the Premier League. Result? Rashford scored two and set up one in United’s 3-2 victory over the Gunners. Since then, he’s scored on his FA Cup and Champions League debuts for United and for England as well. But this season, Rashford is looking like a shadow of his old self.

The reason? Fingers could be pointed at Jose Mourinho’s utilisation of the youngster. Ever since his debut, Rashford has stated his desire to play as centre-forward — a position that a certain Romelu Lukaku occupies for United. But both Van Gaal and Mourinho has used him more as a winger who could play on both flanks. Rashford, who was always a striker hungry for goals, suddenly found himself in the role of a provider and someone who doesn’t start many matches for the club.

But what triggered this huge plunge for the ‘next big thing’ from the United academy? To begin with, United’s transfer policy has got something to do with it. Players like Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez have come in after Martial as United tried to add more firepower in attack despite Rashford’s growing reputation.

The arrival of such big names might have given Rashford the notion that the club did not trust him very much. For the club, he was still a ‘promising youngster’ who isn’t yet ready to pin down a place in the first 11. As far as rationalising goes, that is justified. But it is fair to say that neither Van Gaal nor Mourinho have made Rashford feel wanted at Old Trafford.

One has the feeling that Rashford’s development has stalled. He might be just 20 years of age, but with his unquestionable talent, Rashford has already become a fan favourite at United and England national team.

This has got to such an extent that speculations regarding Rashford leaving United for game time is gathering pace. Earlier in the summer transfer window, there were speculations about Chelsea lining up a move for him if Eden Hazard signed for Spanish giants Real Madrid. However, the Belgian didn’t and Rashford ended up staying at United to endure what looks to be a very long season for him.

Legendary United defender Rio Ferdinand recently said that it is Mourinho who’s to blame for Rashford’s plight. Jamie Carragher, formerly of United’s archrivals Liverpool, probably was more critical commenting that Rashford might end up being United’s next Danny Welbeck. Now he’s not someone Rashford would want to be likened with.

The United academy hasn’t seen much success in the recent times. So, one could understand the excitement when Rashford broke through to the first team and also their disappointment seeing him under-utilised by Jose. After all, he’s United through and through.

After the departures of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, United needed to strengthen their attack. Rashford’s frustration is quite understandable seeing gaffers putting their trust on big money signings rather than on United’s home-made talent.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and the club’s transfer policy might have become a laughing stock in the recent times, but the treatment of Rashford adds insult to the injury.

English players have a knack of taking the world by storm only to later fade away into the oblivion, take David Bentley for example. Will Rashford go on to be an Alan Shearer or a Paul Gascoigne, or will he be yet another sigh of disappointment like Bentley? Only time will tell.

But if United and Mourinho keep on benching him like this season, Rashford’s dream of becoming a one-club man might get nipped in the bud. And a move away from the club might be the best move the youngster can make at the moment.