This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
Having burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced teenager, Marcus Rashford’s career has been intriguingly enigmatic.
An unforgettable week in February 2016 saw him net four goals against FC Midtjylland and Arsenal, and lay down a significant marker for what could be to come. In fact, speaking after the game in which Wayne Rooney equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 249 goals for the club, Jose Mourinho made a very bold claim indeed.
“I see (matching 249 being) really difficult. I don’t know, who knows? Marcus, he is 18. If he plays Man United until the end of his career, maybe Marcus can do it but Rooney scored a lot of goals.” – Jose Mourinho, January 2017
How has it therefore come to pass that a prospect who was once being considered as someone who could potentially be the club’s record goal-scorer, now find himself shunted from centre-stage? Well, the graphic below certainly tells the story.
The England international’s stats as a striker in the Premier League for United make for uninspiring reading. He averages less than a goal every three games, and his assist totals are disappointingly poor too.
Rashford’s game up front has been solely predicated on making runs in behind and hovering on the opposition centre-back’s shoulder. Whilst it may work against sides who play a high defensive line, it is significantly less effective against teams that sit back.
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In his last ten games up-front in the league, Rashford had 35 efforts on goal, but just two found the back of the net. His one-dimensional style of play makes it easy for opposition teams to read, and it is part of the reason why England manager Gareth Southgate publicly questioned the United star’s ability to make it as a centre-forward.
“Although we have, for a long time, almost wanted Marcus to be that option as a (No) 9, I’m still not certain that that is where he is happiest and where he does his best work. A lot of his development at United was as a wide raider and he isn’t as strong as Harry (Kane) with his back to goal and holding play up.” – Gareth Southgate, September 2019
According to Understat, Rashford’s numbers when playing on the left-flank are better in every respect than when he leads the line. The 21-year-old averages more shots (2.97) and key passes (1.21) per game, and has a better expected goals and assists ratio too.
So, taking all this into consideration, Rashford really doesn’t have anyone else to blame. The Englishman has had countless opportunities in his preferred position, and hasn’t really made the most of it. Not everyone finishes their career where they started it, and the 21-year-old certainly looks like he fits into that bracket.