Marcus Rashford could be set for a pre-season trial through the middle as Erik ten Hag plans to survey Manchester United‘s attacking options ahead of his debut campaign. The 24-year-old struggled for form last term, but could establish himself as Cristiano Ronaldo‘s understudy if he grasps the opportunity that may soon come his way.
Rashford endured perhaps his worst season as a Red Devil last time out, notching four goals and two assists in 25 Premier League outings. The usual pace and flair was absent from his game when deployed out wide, and his route back to regular action was made more difficult by the emergence of Anthony Elanga.
How Rashford slots into Ten Hag’s plans for the coming season will largely be shaped by United’s summer transfer business. A move for Darwin Nunez may have seen him tumble down the pecking order, but with no other frontmen thought to be in the crosshairs, a solid pre-season performance could consolidate him as Ten Hag’s number-two striker.
Manchester Evening News claim that Ten Hag is set to favour a versatile front three, spearheaded mainly by Ronaldo. But with the 37-year-old now entering the final years of his career, Rashford may be called upon fairly regularly to deputise up top.
“I always thought it was better for him to come from the side, especially the left side,” to which former Red Devils captain Roy Keane added: “The hardest position to play at Old Trafford is up through the middle. Playing with his back to goal is not one of his strengths.”
Whether Ten Hag has a cunning plan to coax the best out of Rashford in a central role remains to be seen. The Dutchman spent last season nursing Sebastien Haller back to full health, and then some, as the former West Ham flop bagged 28 goal involvements in 31 Ajax matches – plus 11 in eight Champions League outings.
The shape of United’s attack remains uncertain due to Anthony Martial’s return from a loan spell with Sevilla and persistent transfer links with Brazilian winger Antony. Whether either player will get a chance to become a trusted member of Ten Hag’s squad will be decided between now and the beginning of next season.
The Red Devils’ transfer strategy is expected to become clear once a deal for Frenkie de Jong is finalised. An initial £56m fee is thought to have convinced Barcelona to do business, leaving just personal terms to agree on before Ten Hag has his key man.