Home Analysis Marcus Rashford should be wary of becoming a “Theo Walcott” at Manchester...

Marcus Rashford should be wary of becoming a “Theo Walcott” at Manchester United

Marcus Rashford has been told his career progression at Manchester United might see him end up similar to that of Theo Walcott in his time at Arsenal. At this point it’s hard to tell if Rashford is simply a striker, a winger or both combined. A scenario that can be likened to that of the former Arsenal man.

Rashford has netted twice in the Premier League in four matches and assisted one goal but has played up top and out wide during the campaign thus far both for United and England. Rashford is a key reason why the leading bookmakers have United as most likely to finish fourth in the Premier League this season – and you can take advantage of this using the TVG promo code and get the best price.

It’s this indecisiveness in his preferred position that has actually led to criticism from former Liverpool star Stan Collymore, who claims that Rashford could become the ‘modern-day Theo Walcott.

Despite having more than 100 Arsenal goals, Walcott never knew exactly what he wanted to be after joining Arsenal from Southampton in 2006 and it led to the 30-year-old ultimately not fulfilling his potential at the Emirates before joining Everton.

The once upon a time England prodigy only managed to score more than ten goals in a league season for Arsenal on two occasions and whilst Rashford has much higher aims for himself, the comparison makes sense to Collymore, who says the latter must decide what type of player he wants to be after playing from the left in England’s win over Bulgaria.

“If Marcus Rashford isn’t careful, sooner rather than later he is going to find himself cast as the modern-day Theo Walcott,” Collymore told Mirror Football.

Someone who isn’t seen as an out-and-out winger or straight-up No.9 but a Jack of all trades as a forward and master of none.

That’s why now is the perfect time for him to decide whether that’s the way he wants to go. Or would he rather be a player who lives or dies as a No.9. If he’s happy to play anywhere if it means being an England regular then that’s his call.

“But if that is the case over the next five to 10 years then I worry about the negative impact such a decision could have on his club career because of the message it sends.”

Verdict

Pundits/former players are not always right on opinions but Collymore has put his facts out there on offer.

Marcus Rashford started out his Manchester United career on the left-wing and it is with that role he has become well established for. His awareness and blistering pace ideally gives him the proper attributes a natural winger should possess.

Perhaps the knack for more goals has seen him make a stake in wanting to feature as a striker. The fact that Lukaku fell out of favour with Solskjaer while at the club also didn’t do well to help the narrative.

A Martial lacking confidence and a Lukaku out of all sorts meant Rashford was deployed as a striker on many occasions last season. Unfortunately, he can’t seem to figure out which is best for him. Let’s take a look at the statistics to give a picture of which position he was more effective at.

As per detailed statistics via transfermarkt, Rashford had a total of 47 appearances (all competitions) for Manchester United last season. Out of those 47 appearances, 33 came from the Premier League, 10 from the Champions League and the remaining four links to the FA Cup.

In the Champions League, seven out of his 10 appearances saw him play as a striker and the other three on the flanks. He grabbed only two goals in the process. Not as conclusive enough as United barely had a good game in their Champions League campaign last season.

In a more conclusive Premier League, he played 21 times as a striker and the other 12 on the flanks. He had a total of 10 league goals to show for. It’s quite interesting to note that eight out of his 10 league goals came from the striker position and the remaining two from the flanks. Leaning towards the fact that he is more effective in the striking position. Right?

But then football is a team sport and it’s with that mindset that Rashford must think the matter through. He has a teammate in Anthony Martial who is a natural striker and currently in good form at the moment. What better reason to indicate his position than the fact that he only just took the no 9 jersey which has been worn by the likes of Andy Cole, Dimitar Berbatov and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to mention a few. It strongly indicates the Frenchman has set up his mind that he’s a striker full time.

Then there’s England. Rashford carries the same worries into his national side as well. But it’s even tougher in that regard. England of course have the untouchable Harry Kane and Harry Wilson battling for the striker role – even though we know who has it. Imagining a Rashford in this setting with the likes of Ashley Barnes, Tammy Abraham and a host of others still looking to make the squad and it looks like mission impossible.

On the flanks, Sterling is untouchable as well which leaves the left-wing (where Rashford played in over the weekend) the reasonable vacant option. Rashford might be afforded that now but with a blazing in form Jadon Sancho hungry for game time, it’s only a matter of time before Rashford might be erased from the picture completely or see himself become a player just to fill squad sheets.

And when a national team coach makes doubtful statements against a player, he’s more or less saying he doesn’t trust the player in a certain position. Just as Gareth Southgate indicated.

The Three Lions coach said after England’s 4-0 win over Bulgaria:

“For a long time we have almost wanted Marcus to be that option as a No .9, but I’m still not certain that is where he is happiest and where he does his best work.

Marcus is still relatively young. Over the last 12 to 18 months with us he’s had a big impact on our games with a number of goals and assists. So, I think he’s still a work in progress.”

Conclusion

Stats may tell the story that the United man is more clinical as a striker but the reality is he doesn’t have a stable future playing in that position. At 21 years of age, time is still on his side to develop greatly and make a name for himself playing from the flanks.

Realistically, he can blossom there and his pace gives him the natural advantage as well. You don’t play as a striker for Manchester United one week and go the next week for England as a winger. It ruins the dynamics of his game and also alters the thought process of his coaches as well.

One might wrongly judge him based on the performance he saw him put in while at another position – when in actual fact it was only just a surge in form or perhaps a bad day at the office. Take an example in a young Thierry Henry who was converted to a striker from a winger and duly kept to one position diligently. The rest is history as he went on to become one of the greatest strikers in the Premier League.

The lesson is short and simple – stick to one position and you stand greater chances of being successful.

Rashford has the qualities to play both as a striker and as a winger but for his sake, his development and that of his coaches, he should stick to the flanks and work hard to make the position his own fully.