This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Marcus Rashford scored just his second goal from open play since March when he cut inside to smash home England’s opener against Bulgaria within seven minutes, and he should have sent Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a clear message as a result.
The United forward darted down the line to beautifully cut back inside and leave the Bulgarian defence on the deck, as he rocketed in a fabulous strike from the wing. It was indeed just Rashford’s second goal from open play this season after he slotted home against Chelsea on the opening day.
The 21-year-old put in what was probably his best performance since that clash against the Blues, and it’s not much of a surprise that it comes as he was playing from the wing. The Englishman put in an 8/10 display against Bulgaria and was able to make runs off of Harry Kane, dribble at defenders and once again prove his worth as one of Europe’s best young talents.
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This was opposed to when he plays centrally for United, where he often drops deep for the ball, suffocating his ability to attack defenders and make it tough for those around him to work to his strengths.
Since Solskjaer took the helm at Old Trafford, he has experimented with the pacey forward as both a striker and as a left winger alongside Romelu Lukaku who took the central role. This season, Solskjaer has made it clear Rashford was going to be his striker after he scored five goals when he was deployed in the role in the Norwegian’s first two months in charge.
Back then, however, Rashford was helped by the incredible form of players such as Paul Pogba, who eventually provided 13 assists for forwards like him that season. Nowadays, the Frenchman’s form has dried up slightly and Rashford has since lacked any service and knowledge on how to adapt in the striker role, scoring just once from open play all season.
For example, on Monday, Kane effortlessly proved the striker role is his natural position, as he dropped deep and in the end provided three assists and a goal. This isn’t Rashford’s game and never has been, as he would not often bag a hat-trick of assists like Kane can do.
On the other hand, the Englishman proved in just seven minutes for his country that when he plays as a winger, he can take us back to the days where he shone as a teenager. The times where he would spin defenders in a rapid change of pace, cut inside and shoot, just like he did against Bulgaria.
In Solskjaer’s defence, the injury to Anthony Martial has perhaps forced Rashford to play centrally more often. However, when the Frenchman returns, the United boss needs to play these clips from Bulgaria on repeat and remember to play Rashford on the wings, and Martial down the middle.
Simply put, if Solskjaer wants the old days of a clinical Rashford back, the left wing is his spot.