This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Having made their breakthroughs in the same season, both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have had some rather intriguing years at Old Trafford. After their respective goal-scoring debuts against Liverpool and FC Midtjylland in the 2015/2016 season, both have had careers in which there is still a sense of under-achievement. Have they really kicked on after exploding onto the scene?
One issue that certainly hasn’t helped has been the constant question marks over where their best position is. Are they both inside forwards who like to cut inside from the left wing? Or are they more number nines who want to make runs off the shoulder of the last defender? To think that both have had more than a couple of seasons in the first-team at Old Trafford, and are still yet to nail down a position has certainly raised some eyebrows.
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But perhaps Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s comments on the duo could be the start of something new at Old Trafford. Speaking during pre-season, the Norwegian revealed: “With Marcus, he can play along the front-line. Sometimes he likes to drift to the left, same with Anthony, both of them can play at nine and 11, also together as a pair as a nine and a 10, also sometimes on the right-hand side.
“For me, it’s great to have forwards who rotate and say, ‘he’s on the right side and I’ll be on the left side, or, ‘he’s through the middle, I’ll be on the side’.”
Indeed, back in February earlier this year, Solskjaer remarked that he could see the pair strike up a lethal partnership together. He said: “When they play central, they go in-to-out on those runs, so I think, in the coming years, we’ll see loads of combinations between those two.”
So for United’s opening Premier League game of the season against Chelsea, could we see Martial and Rashford finally get the chance to play as out-and-out strikers together?
Unleashing them as a front two could cause opposition teams havoc due to their constant movement and pace, and give Solskjaer’s team two direct forwards who are as comfortable taking the ball to feet and driving at defenders as they are making dangerous runs in behind.
Indeed, the tactical flexibility it would give the Norwegian in perhaps reverting back to a tried-and-trusted 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 would allow United to be unpredictable.
If United are to see the best of their talented duo, working them into a bona-fide strike force rather than one up front and one stuck out on the wing is surely the way to go.