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Marcus Rashford: The secret behind Manchester United forward's upturn in form

Yusuf Haq

| Last updated 

Marcus Rashford: The secret behind Manchester United forward's upturn in form

For the first time in a while, Marcus Rashford is a man in form and he is winning Manchester United games once again.

The fan-favourite Carrington graduate has had a tough couple of years, to say the least. A back fracture in January 2020 halted the momentum of at the time arguably the most in form forward in the league.

Returning when football restarted in July after the COVID-19 lockdown, Rashford played well but did not look the same.

In 2020/21, he was clearly suffering with injuries. Despite this, he put up very good numbers in the first half of the season. In the second half of it, his injuries caught up to him.

He was still made to play through these, however, and this irresponsible management of his fitness led to a major decline in form over the last year and a half, including a spell on the side-lines post-operation.


But now, Marcus Rashford has five goal contributions in his last four games and looks closer to returning to his best level for Manchester United.

Three of these goal contributions came in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over league leaders Arsenal, a statement win for Erik ten Hag’s United team.

For those who watch closely, they will notice similarities between Rashford’s assist to Antony in this game, and his assist to Jadon Sancho in Thursday night’s win over Leicester City.

There were also similarities in how his two goals against Arsenal were both scored, and how his goal against Liverpool two weeks ago was scored. Here, UtdDistrict analyse these goal contributions:


Here, in his goal against Liverpool, the Englishman starts out on the left but makes a darting run from out to in behind Liverpool’s high line.



Again, for his first goal against Arsenal, he comes from the left (albeit slightly closer to the centre than the Liverpool goal) and makes an out to in run behind the centre back, who is high.



For his second against Arsenal, as United’s play is concentrated over on the right and Arsenal’s defence shifts, Rashford stays across slightly wider left.

He then has an almost free run in behind, as Ben White - Arsenal’s right back - comes further inside to try and stop Christian Eriksen. It ends up being an easy finish for Rashford.



Despite him starting at centre forward in both of these matches, all of Rashford’s goals have come from being moved out to the left hand side in the second half.

Running from out to in behind defences from these positions is and always has been where United’s number 10 has been at his most devastating.

For a while, fans did not see this much from Rashford. But it looked much more frequent in pre-season, and now in his three goals this season. He also had a big chance against Brighton like this.

This points to the movement being something Erik ten Hag has asked him to do more of, and for United players to find him when he does make this run.


Both of Rashford’s assists, however, have come when playing as a centre forward. Here, look at where he receives the ball and the run being made by Jadon Sancho, which Rashford cleverly finds.



Here, Rashford’s assist is somewhat similar. He receives the ball in zone 14, which whilst a more central zone than the one he received in against Leicester, and this time it is the opposite winger making the run in behind.

Rashford very cleverly slips in Antony, who Arsenal haven’t picked up at all, and he slots away his debut goal for Manchester United.



In these goals and assists, similar patterns are forming for Rashford. This clearly indicates instruction from Ten Hag, and shows he is starting to implement his methods.

The clear instructions given to Rashford are a good thing for him, he has not been given clear tactical ideas since Louis van Gaal was his manager. This will help improve his decision making. 

For all the five goals analysed here, a wider tactic emerges: Erik ten Hag’s use of width in attack.

In all of the goals scored, a wide forward is hanging further wide either off the full back when they come inside, or off the nearside centre back if the full back has pushed on further forward.

This stretches teams horizontally, either meaning spaces open up centrally that United players can exploit, a switch ball becomes available to create an isolation for the winger or a run in behind can be found.

With the devastating pace of United’s attacking players, these runs become hard to track if timed properly and the side has players who can execute these key passes, with new signing Casemiro adding to that.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Manchester United, Marcus Rashford, Erik Ten Hag, Premier League, Arsenal, Liverpool, Leicester City

Yusuf Haq
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