Marcus Rashford Is the Answer to Manchester United's Right Wing Puzzle

Nov 25, 2020, 4:45 PM GMT
Marcus Rashford
What a year he is having | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

It's been years since Manchester United have had a top level right winger who performs at a consistently high level in their team. Step forward, Marcus Rashford.

Since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2009, United have had the likes of Antonio Valencia, Nani, Ashley Young, Gabriel Obertan, Memphis Depay, Angel Di Maria, Adnan Januzaj and Daniel James attempt to fill his shoes on the wing.

That puzzle looked set to be solved last summer, when the Red Devils were persistently linked with the signing of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund. When it didn't happen, they were back to square one.

Sancho and Rashford could have been teammates at club level
Sancho and Rashford could have been teammates at club level | Robin Jones/Getty Images

Fans saw the emergence of Mason Greenwood last season in that position and while he performed admirably, it's clear for all to see that he is likely going to be a centre forward in the future.

Anthony Martial has adapted very well to a central striker role under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and the arrival of Edinson Cavani in the summer meant that Rashford was now likely to be used exclusively as a left-winger for the Old Trafford club.

That hasn't been a problem so far, with Rashford standing out as one of United's better performers in a so far lacklustre campaign. He currently has eight goals in 14 appearances in all competitions, but his performance in Tuesday's win over Istanbul Basaksehir was one of his best so far.

Solskjaer opted to field Rashford on the right wing, with Martial on the left and Cavani up front. It took about 100 seconds before the 23-year-old showed he was still a huge threat even from the opposite flank, as he picked the ball up in a deep position and drove straight through the heart of the Istanbul defence to create a big chance early on.

He then saw a goal disallowed for a marginal offside after coming in from the right flank into a central position, before a beautiful run in behind the defence saw him latch on to a long pass to win the penalty that he would convert.

When on the left, Rashford is always a threat. He has fantastic ability to beat a man and his incisive passing mean he is always looking to create. The issue he has is that because he is so one footed, his next move is obvious - cut inside.

That often means defenders are happy to congest the centre of the pitch to make it harder for him to do anything. On the right, he has the option of going down the byline and whipping in crosses.

It seems to be the case that the side has that extra bit of balance with Rashford on the right. He has the experience and quality to adapt his game that way but it also doesn't effect his style too much. He's still able to cut inside and drive towards the opposition goal from the right with his dribbling, while also being able to using his excellent ball-striking technique to cross the ball or fire across goal if needed.

He seems to have mastered the run in behind between the full-back and centre-back but his finishing when trying to place the ball is erratic. He's at his best when smashing the ball hard and low, like his goals against PSG and RB Leipzig in the Champions League.

Martial has shown in the past that he is more than capable of playing from the left wing, while Greenwood is so two-footed that if you wanted to use him out wide then it shouldn't matter which side.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Wan-Bissaka could benefit from Rashford swapping flanks | Alex Pantling/Getty Images

The fact that Rashford would have Aaron Wan-Bissaka behind him means he is more than capable of bombing on and not worrying about the defender behind him needing extra protection like Luke Shaw often does.

Manchester United are desperate for a top quality right winger to be in their squad, but have they potentially had one in their team the entire time? It certainly looks like it.