Is Rashford the real deal?

Young Marcus Rashford made his Premier League debut against Arsenal this week, with all eyes on him due to his excellent performance midweek in the Europa League. The 18 year old didn’t disappoint. Two goals and an assist against a title chasing Arsenal side would be a good performance for a seasoned striker, let alone a debutant. Here we aim to find if Rashford really is as good as his goals would indicate? Is he set to play the rest of the season for United? And the most important question, should you bring him into your fantasy team?

Manchester United seem to have a serious problem with injuries at the moment, especially with their strike force. Rooney is out until April, Martial is still recovering from his injury during his warm up and the only other recognised strikers currently on the books are Will Keane, who is also injured, and James Wilson, who is currently on loan. So purely in terms of availability, we could be seeing a lot more from Rashford over the next month, though he is likely to be dropped to the bench once the £36 million Martial returns. Even with that as the case, a second choice striker from a top club can still pick up a good number of points, especially when they seemingly can do no wrong while they’re on the pitch.

But is that really the case with Rashford? Watching his performance, he has many flaws to his game, but they simply weren’t punished by an awful Arsenal defence on the day. Firstly, Rashford has a tendency to drift wide, which could cause United problems in other games where they really need a focal point for their attack. On the occasions that he does stick to the middle, such as during the build up to his second goal, he looked incredibly unsure of where he should be going. This seems to be a common occurrence for him in fact, as unless the ball is in or around the opposition’s 18 yard box, Rashford seems to drift around and not pay full attention to the wider game. This trait could have cost Manchester during the first half as he was meant to mark the near post from an Arsenal corner, but came off the post, attracted more too where the ball was than where he was meant to be. As a result, when Aaron Ramsey nodded the ball on from the corner and was deflected goalwards by an unsuspecting Schneiderlin, Rashford was lucky enough to have the ball strike his arm before he could then clear it away. While to anyone in the stadium it would have seemed like the youngster just saved them, in reality if he had been closer to the post he was meant to mark it would have been a much calmer affair than the scramble it instead looked like.

But to give the young man credit, his role in the team isn’t to be a defensive rock, but to be involved in goal scoring, which he does brilliantly for someone so young and inexperienced. For his first goal, he collected the ball just outside the 6 yard box, practically forcing Jesse Lingard to move out of his way by presence alone, and smashed the ball home with a composed finish. For his second, only 3 minutes later, he again found space inside the Arsenal box to get on the end of a fantastic dipping cross from Lingard on the right, and the resulting header from Rashford was extremely well placed, give Cech little chance. However, it should be noted that the jump to get to the ball from Rashford was very weak, with his feet barely leaving the ground, and if even a single Arsenal defender had bothered to mark him it could have been a very different story. Nevertheless, Rashford continued to impress, using his pace to cause yet more problems for Arsenal, proven by his run at the defence down the right side of attack that was never properly closed down, allowing him to play a simple pass back to Ander Herrera who, with some assistance from a deflection, scored from outside the box. To be willing to make runs like this in a match of huge proportions, like any game between these two sides is, shows composure far beyond his years, a point proven by how calmly he handled himself during the heated clash between Herrera and Ramsey. Rather than trying to join the physical confrontation, Rashford seemed to calmly approach the referee and when told to back away, he simply did without any need for further altercation.

So overall, Rashford has great potential and is already showing the attributes that could make him a threatening poacher to Premier League sides for years to come, and in many ways his performance he is reminiscent of Gary Lineker, in that he will find himself space in the box and is an excellent finisher, not to mention his unwillingness to get booked for any silly actions. If you need another striker in your squad to take the place of an underwhelming player who has been on poor form, Rashford could be an excellent gamble. He is likely to grab a few more goals during this season, and while won’t be playing every game that just means he can be subbed out in the games he doesn’t appear for another player sitting on your bench, so you don’t really lose out. However, if you’re hoping to bring Rashford in and expect him to be scoring a brace week after week, you will be very disappointed within a week or two.

What are your thoughts? Let me know on Twitter @ElliottChaplin.