The 2018/19 season is all but over for Manchester United. After failing to beat Chelsea at the weekend, the Red Devils have almost no chance of sneaking into the top four and earning the final Champions League qualification spot.
They aren’t in European competition either, as they were outclassed by FC Barcelona at the quarter-final stage. They didn’t fare much better in domestic cup competitions, as United were knocked out by Derby County in the Carabao Cup before being eliminated in the FA Cup by Wolves.
There are still two games left to go, but eyes are already on the future.
Now, the focus in on the upcoming summer transfer window. Everyone at United knows they’ll have to bring in a number of quality players to rebuild the squad, and it’s just as likely many will be sold to raise funds. One of the most contentious debates centres around the future of Marcus Rashford, with the fanbase split on whether he should stay or go in the offseason.
Barcelona are reportedly interested in the player, and one of the biggest decisions United will have to make this summer is whether or not to sell him.
Potential icon for club and country
There is arguably no player the board and the fans want to succeed more at the club than Rashford.
He’s famous “one of our own”, as he was born in Manchester and rose those the ranks at the youth level before graduating to the first team.
United pride themselves on creating their own stars, and Rashford is another shining example of the fabled academy. He’s got a future at international level as well, already making a number of appearances for England, and United fans will want to make sure he’s one of many Red Devils helping lead the Three Lions to glory for years to come.
He’s still got plenty of potential too. Rashford has played so many games for United that people forget he’s still only 21 years of age. That means there is plenty of time for further growth, and there’s no idea just how high his ceiling truly is.
That also benefits United when it comes to salary, as the club can get away with paying him less than more proven and experienced signings in the future.
Rashford also fits in well with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's usual gameplan. The Norwegian likes to play with pace, and that’s something Rashford has plenty of. His ability to run right at defenders allows United to be as direct as possible, especially on the counter. It’s clear Ole has a long term plan to transform United on the pitch, and those plans seem to definitely include Rashford.
Capitalizing on the hype
On the other hand, Rashford’s value in the transfer market might never be higher. There’s so much hype around him at the moment that his cost in the market has inflated past what he is actually worth. There’s a chance he still does exceed the lofty expectations set on him, but there’s a greater possibility that his price only goes down with age. If there was ever a time for United to sell Rashford, it would be now.
It also does not seem like he’s developed a preferred position yet. Rashford would like to play up top as a striker, of course, but he doesn’t quite cut it there. A club the size of United need a clinical finisher, and Rashford just misses too many chances. He focuses too much on getting power behind his shots when he’d be better off placing it into the corner in certain situations.
Many are still haunted by his miss in the opening minutes against Barcelona, as he managed to only toe-poke a shot off the bar when he was played in behind. His pace and dribbling ability make him much better suited to play out wide, but it doesn’t seem like Rashford wants to play as a winger. That could become a problem, especially if United choose to bring in a big name striker in the summer.
He’s also got a bit of an attitude problem on the field now. Off of it, he’s been an excellent spokesperson for the club, of course. However, Rashford has started acting differently during games. He’s becoming increasingly cocky and arrogant, with some fans comparing him to a young Cristiano Ronaldo, minus the world-class talent.
The best example of this comes whenever United win a free kick. No matter the position or distance from goal, Rashford puts himself on it with the only intention being to go for goal. He has learned how to knuckleball his shots, but most of the time his effort goes right into the wall or miles off target.
Scoring a free kick in Solskjaer's debut game against Cardiff City gave him way too much confidence, and he needs to be reminded that he’s not efficient enough to take every single set piece.
When it’s not going his or United’s way, Rashford becomes a very frustrated figure. He’ll still make runs and trackback, but he gets more and more annoyed with his teammates as the game goes on. Part of that might be due to immaturity, but he didn’t have these problems earlier in his career. The hype might just be getting to his head, which is incredibly dangerous for any young player.
Not much time to decide
Whatever decision United ultimately make, they have make sure they do it quickly. The club has wasted the early months of the transfer window in past years, which has made them play catch up towards the end each and every time.
Everyone knows how crucial this summer will be in terms of rebuilding, and it needs to be successful if Man Utd want any chance of challenging for trophies next year.
The jury is still out on whether Rashford should stay or go, but there is not much time left to debate the issue.