If you had told any Manchester United fan that Marcus Rashford would have scored 21 goals by the middle of February, you would have been laughed at. Now, that stat is a reality and Rashford has elevated himself into the top five scorers across all of Europe.
His goal at Elland Road on Sunday made it four goals in four Premier League games and again signified the change in mentality and the desire to score goals. Many previously criticised the 25-year-old’s ability to convert aerial chances but this season he has put those doubts to bed. Two beautifully finished headers against Leeds United and who could forget his 100th goal for the club against West Ham United as he towered over his defender.
So, where has the improvement and upturn in form come from? Difficult to pinpoint one factor but one substantial enhancement has come from attacking coach Benni McCarthy. McCarthy was appointed by Erik Ten Hag as an attacking based coach in the summer and the former Blackburn Rovers and West Ham striker has received nothing but praise from not only the fans but also the players.
In a recent Q&A with the club, Ten Hag said: “I wanted to find a really good balance. Benni is offensive minded with him being a former striker and he has a very specific job within the team. I never played as a striker myself so it’s lucky to have someone in the coaching staff who has played there.”
It is evident to see the evolution in many of the forwards’ games but none more so than Rashford who now exudes confidence when in front of goal and has added the big moments to his game alongside an impressive conversion rate in the league. The Englishman currently averages a goal every 157 minutes in the league this season and has even created 18 chances.
After scoring his 100th goal for the club, the forward said: “There is a different energy around the club and that puts me in a better headspace and I feel really motivated and at times last season, that was something I struggled with.
“Too many times last season, I was not in the right headspace coming into games and that has been the biggest change for me personally.”
So, where could the improvement in motivation and change in energy have come from? A huge factor in those things is the manager, he has changed the fortunes of a once wilting team and has reconnected the players to the fans. With Rashford being a Manchester lad and emerging from the academy, it only grows and strengthens that bond to the fans.
Speaking after the win at Elland Road on Sunday, Ten Hag said: “He (Rashford) is playing with belief and in every game he takes his chances. He has the physical capabilities and technical skills to finish his chances. He has great movement and speed to make the runs and mentally, he is able to keep his focus.”
Rashford comfortably leads the United charts for goal contributions in all competitions with 28 compared to the seven that he contributed in the entirety of last season. It has been quite brilliant to watch Rashford turnaround his fortunes in Manchester with many wanting him gone at the end of last season.
United travel to Spain for Thursday’s first leg clash against Barcelona where Rashford will be hoping to contribute once again.