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No goals in 11 games: What's going on with Rashford at Man Utd?

11:00 EAT 15/01/2022
Marcus Rashford Manchester United 2021-22
The forward has looked listless of late and manager Ralf Rangnick has admitted that he has no idea why the England international is struggling

For the second time this season, Manchester United fans in the Stretford End unfurled a banner brandishing the word ‘standards’ under the faces of three of the club’s iconic captains: Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and Roy Keane.

The black-and-white canvas was a clear message to Ralf Rangnick's players as they made their way onto the pitch for Monday night's FA Cup third-round clash against Aston Villa.

Indeed, this wasn’t just a celebration of three of the greatest leaders ever to line out for United; it was a reminder of the levels of effort and dedication that the Old Trafford faithful expect of every single player lucky enough to wear the shirt. 

It is hardly surprising, then, that the same set of supporters let out a collective groan as Marcus Rashford failed to chase down a loose ball in the penalty area with 16 minutes left to play at Old Trafford.

The dejected expression on the 24-year-old’s face as he was brought off 12 minutes later also spoke volumes. 

“Everything looks a huge effort for him at this moment in time. There is no spark,” Alan Shearer said on BBC

Rashford has privately accepted that his recent performances have simply not been up to the 'standards' required at United.

But why is the forward underperforming right now? 

Some Old Trafford sources believe Rashford has been distracted by his off-the-pitch endeavours in helping tackle child food poverty and they are keen for him to spend more time working getting back to full fitness in order to rediscover his best form. 

However, blaming the England international's disappointing displays solely on his charity work is short-sighted.

While Rashford accepts that he needs to take responsibility for his poor performances, there are also tactical considerations that need to be factored into the equation.

Some United insiders believe that that the player has yet to find the right coach for his particular skill set.

He was optimistic that ex-United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would prove the mentor he needed to take his game to the next level, but the former striker rarely took training during his time in charge.

Rashford remains confident that Rangnick can help him improve but the team is a complete mess at the moment, meaning the interim manager has plenty of other problems to solve right now.

Still, the German clearly hasn't yet figured out where to play Rashford, who has already been deployed in three different positions on Rangnick's watch.

Of course, Rashford has to take his share of the blame here too. He was played in preferred position on the left-hand side of United's attack against Aston Villa and underwhelmed again.

His dip in form has led to him overthinking things and sources say the attacker is suffering from a crisis of confidence after a run of 11 games without a goal. 

In a week where Cristiano Ronaldo has questioned the mentality of some of his team-mates, some might point the finger at Rashford due to his body language in recent weeks.

He has looked downbeat and disinterested at times but those close to him say his apparent sulking is merely a result of him wearing his heart on his sleeve.

Certainly, his commitment to the cause shouldn't be questioned. During his rehab after shoulder surgery, Rashford regularly spent 12 hours at the club’s Carrington training base working on his fitness, arriving at 7:15 and not leaving until after 19:30.

The problem was, though, that he was not able to do much cardio-based training due to the nature of his injury and not being able to run. It means that in the absence of a pre-season, he is still not fully fit. 

Nonetheless, Rangnick has been impressed with Rashford in training in recent weeks and GOAL understands the club remain keen to open talks over a new contract in the summer.

As it stands, Rashford still has 18 months to run on his current deal, with the option of a one-year extension. 

He still has plenty of time, then, to get back to his best and United remain confident that he will soon get back to his best.

When asked why the academy graduate was underperforming, Rangnick replied: “I don't know. Of course, it would be good for Marcus if he could score a goal.

"However, as long as he's trying, as long as he's training well, I don't see that much of a problem."

Given the nature of his fitness problems, Rashford’s current blip isn’t a cause for major concern, even if his statistics make for bad reading.

Over his six-year professional career, he’s averaged 0.30 goals a game in the league and that has dropped significantly to 0.18 this season. He clearly needs to improve his numbers, and fast.

With Anthony Martial seeking an exit, Edinson Cavani unable to play twice a week and question marks over Ronaldo’s versatility, the need for Rashford to start shining again has never been greater.