Opinion: Rashford's return couldn't be better timed
Marcus Rashford’s imminent return to the Manchester United first team should excite fans, ahead of a tricky-looking fixture schedule.
The 23-year-old has now recovered from the shoulder surgery which caused him to miss the Reds’ opening two months of the season, meaning our no.10 has been out of action since England’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.
Rashford has been working back at Carrington for a while now, and rejoined full training last Friday as he bids to build his match fitness back up after so long on the sidelines.
On his return, he will add to an already strong attacking department, with summer signings Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo complementing the firepower provided by Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani.
And his comeback arrives at just the right time, with a number of big games on the horizon before the next international break, including trips to Leicester and Tottenham, as well as home clashes with Liverpool and Manchester City, in the Premier League.
A Champions League double-header with Serie A entertainers Atalanta also awaits, during a three-week spell which could help set the tone for the rest of the season.
Fortunately, in his five years as a senior United player, Rashford has time and again proved himself as a big-game player.
“I hope he’s going to be involved against Leicester,” said boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last week and so do we: with five goals in 12 appearances against the Foxes, no other side has conceded more goals to Marcus.
He netted a winning goal at the King Power Stadium back in February 2019 and also slid home the opener during last season’s 2-2 draw on Boxing Day.
Brendan Rodgers’s side have struggled to find their rhythm this season, winning just twice in the league and conceding 12 goals – more than any team outside of the bottom five.
With full-back James Justin still out with a long-term injury and Ricardo Pereira and Timothy Castagne finding form after their own lay-offs, United and Rashford could find joy down the flanks when the sides go up against each other next Saturday.
Rashford has also hit the net five times against our next domestic visitors to Old Trafford: Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Each of those strikes has come at the Theatre of Dreams, as our no.10 has regularly thrived when up against Trent Alexander-Arnold who, as brilliant as he is going forward, can leave gaps in behind for forwards to target.
Liverpool have had a good start and are the Premier League’s only remaining unbeaten side, but the right-hand side of their defence looked vulnerable in the 2-2 draw with Manchester City on Sunday, when James Milner filled in for Alexander-Arnold, and that could be an area for Rashford to exploit.
United’s tough October ends with a trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where we’ll play in front of a full house for the first time since the stadium opened in April 2019.
Three months prior to that, Marcus struck a brilliant solo goal at Spurs’ temporary home Wembley, to win a game best remembered for David De Gea’s heroics at the other end.
The North Londoners have had a mixed start to the season, winning their opening three games and beating Villa last time out, but they conceded three goals in each of the defeats to Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Arsenal, so that could provide encouragement for our frontline in the midst of this difficult run.
All eyes will then be on the first Manchester derby of the season, with Pep Guardiola bringing his City side to Old Trafford just before the next set of international fixtures.
The Wythenshawe-born forward can list four derby strikes on his considerable CV, although the two at Old Trafford have both come in defeats, something he’ll be keen to avenge in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off on 6 November.
City's defence has been the best in the league in 2021/22 but there is still the sense that they are vulnerable to the counter-attack and Rashford is arguably United's most potent forward in that department, having played a part in the tactically superb wins at the Etihad in each of the last two terms.
Did we mention Marcus’s Champions League form from last season?
He scored home and away against Paris Saint-Germain, a penalty versus Istanbul Basaksehir and of course there was that M16 hat-trick in the meeting with RB Leipzig.
Those six goals placed him third in the competition’s end-of-season list, behind only Erling Braut Haaland and Kylian Mbappe – despite United exiting at the group stage.
After the opening matchday defeat to Young Boys, Solskjaer’s side still have work to do to avoid that fate again, but Rashford’s return for the upcoming games with Atalanta should help.
Marcus is a world-class attacking talent and having him available again would boost any side in the world, but as he has shown in the past he could prove particularly useful in these key upcoming games.
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.