How Rashford's game is evolving since lockdown
The development of a number of Manchester United players is becoming clearer, even since the resumption of Premier League action last month.
In this short space of time, we are learning more about how individuals are progressing which is, no doubt, a testament to the hours of unseen work on the training ground with the coaches.
Our regular forward triumvirate of Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford have all added so many facets to their game since lockdown. It seems clear to all observers, with Martial evolving to an all-round no.9 with his hold-up play, work-rate and intuition.
Greenwood, according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, returned to training 'a man' and appears more prepared to handle the physical elements of playing wide on the right, including tracking back to win challenges - which he did within minutes of coming off the bench at Tottenham in our first match back.
The changes in Rashford's work may not have been quite as obvious but were singled out to us recently by Bruno Fernandes, who paid credit to his team-mate. The selfless runs are just one feature of his game, his ability to hit top speed in a short space of time and almost look like he is on fast-forward while leaving everybody in his wake to power forward.
Yet we always knew about Marcus's blistering pace, what we are starting to see now is a creative force, primarily from the left flank, whose passing ability seems to have gone up a notch of late. There was the delightful through ball for Bruno Fernandes, for instance, in the first half against Southampton, when the Portuguese midfielder lifted his finish over the bar. There has been clever appreciation of Luke Shaw's overlaps into dangerous positions but also a real determination to supply killer balls into the box.
Some of this is easy to track, of course. We know Marcus has seven assists in the Premier League this term, the joint-most with Fernandes after both added to this tally during the 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace.
While Rashford's cool finish to open the scoring was always going to get him plaudits, notching a goal in three of his last four outings, it must be time to appreciate other parts of his game, which are coming on leaps and bounds.
Thanks to FBREF.com, and analysing their Premier League data, we can see the England international made 24 completed passes into the opposition box last season (not including set-pieces). He has had 23 since the restart alone, even before Thursday's win when, of course, one such pass, delivered first time into the path of Martial, created the Frenchman's clincher. Overall, in 2019/20, he'd made 58 such passes following the draw with Southampton.
The next-best for the Reds is Daniel James, on 29, and Marcus will have overtaken Fred to provide the most 'shot-creating actions' (passes, dribbles or drawing fouls) during the Selhurst Park encounter.
All of this simply backs up the feeling that the 22-year-old is showing greater creativity and learning to have a better understanding with his colleagues. After all, he played as a no.10 in the Under-16s with United and has always had this in his locker, perhaps it is only now as he is maturing that we are seeing it come to the fore regularly as his role in our attacking play is tweaked."The goals with Marcus and Anthony were just a joy to watch," commented Solskjaer after the game. "The goals were great and we know they can do that at any moment. It’s exciting to watch, it’s exciting to coach, it’s exciting to see them want to be better, want to improve - so it’s great."
Marcus Rashford has created 5 big chances since the Premier League restart, only Kevin De Bruyne (7) has more.— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) July 17, 2020
Taking his game to the next level. 👏 pic.twitter.com/SiR3hHYHpp
There are many reasons for United fans to get as excited as our manager at this moment in time.
One that must be towards the top of the list is seeing how players are visibly improving under him and getting better and better. Rashford, like all three of our regular forwards, is evidence of this.
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