Manchester United: Marcus Rashford is best off staying in Manchester
Although he has not been picking up huge amounts of game time, the England international needs to be patient.
Eight minutes. That’s how long Marcus Rashford got in the Manchester Derby last weekend.
As Romelu Lukaku toiled and shuffled, the brightest prospect in English football was left unused.
It feels typical of his season. Rashford has appeared in over forty games for Manchester United but has started less than half of those. In their past 16 matches alone, he has started just five.
On the surface at least, the frustration is understandable. Alexis Sánchez received a wealth of praise for his game-winning performance against City but he has been a blunt instrument for most of his short spell as a Manchester United player.
In contrast, the 20-year-old has brayed with attacking malice whenever he’s been given a chance.
Time to say goodbye?
Leaving, however, would represent a poor career choice.
José Mourinho, despite the lazy assertion that his is a cold house for young players, has a proven record of honing talent.
Joe Cole was a sickly huckster before being sharpened into a player that could reliably start for England. Arjen Robben, too, was given the entire left wing at Chelsea despite barely being out of secondary school.
Mourinho might not have granted Rashford as many starts as he’d have liked but he has also punctured much of the hype that has strangled England’s brightest prospects over the past few decades.
Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott were all exposed to the spotlight too soon, ballooned by a hope that their talent couldn’t match. The first two managed to cope relatively well – on the pitch, anyway – but that doesn’t mean that they should have had to.
If Rashford doubts his chances in the Manchester United first team, he should take heart from the example of Jesse Lingard.
Casual readers might be surprised to learn that Lingard is 25 years old. His inability to convert first-team chances into a continuous spot looked like defining his career: until, that is, Mourinho finally hammered him into a player who could deliver consistently.
Provided he keeps delivering, Rashford can expect to be given similar opportunities.
“It’s a big club with big players and, for players like me and Marcus, it’s going to be tough to start every game. But, once you’re on the pitch, you’ve got to make an impact and maybe next time you’ll be playing,” said Lingard not too long ago.
Mourinho hasn’t been shy in granting first-team minutes to Rashford either.
According to Who Scored? Only David de Gea, Nemanja Matic and Lukaku have made more appearances in the league. It’s a similar picture in Europe, with only Anthony Martial and Chris Smalling featuring more regularly.
Ample game time
Far from stifling his young stars, Mourinho is giving ample game time to a swathe of youthful inside forwards. If anything, he has been almost too accommodating for each of his players, with each called upon extensively in a campaign that stretched over four competitions.
For all his undoubted talent, Rashford will face similar struggles at every side in the top six should he decide to leave. Even Arsenal, the Sick Man of the European places, would find it’s difficult to accommodate him alongside Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
To be guaranteed a starting spot, then, he would need to forego the chance of playing with elite players in elite competitions. A spell at Newcastle, for example, might be good for his appearance numbers but it would ultimately be counter-productive for his development.
Time is on Rashford’s side. He’s a regular performer for a team that is being dragged upwards by one of the game’s brightest managers. Patience is required.
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