Erik ten Hag can confirm Marcus Rashford’s best position for Manchester United vs Barcelona..
Manchester United might head into tonight’s clash with Barcelona as underdogs, though they are still a team that possesses one of the most in-form players in world football.
It will take a tremendous team effort to secure a positive result, but just as important will be for star man Marcus Rashford to rise to the occasion and inspire his side to victory.
The 25-year-old is performing as well as any other forward right now with 13 goals in 14 games, a feat made even more remarkable by the fact that only one of those was a start as a striker.
It means Rashford is now on 21 goals for the season and only needs one more to match his best ever tally, which seems certain given there is so much left to play.
Rashford’s predicament is that his versatility is not only a huge plus to his approach, but that it is also often holding him back, given that he can be used in any of the attacking roles depending on what the team needs.
This is of particular importance heading into the first-leg with Barcelona, given that United’s hopes could well hinge on the output of Rashford in attack.
United are likely to be best off approaching the game with the same counter-attacking set-up they adopted in wins over Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City this season.
Rashford netted in all three of those wins, the first two when he was playing in his favoured role from the left and the other when he moved into the middle in the closing stages of the match.
Throughout his career, he has been at his best when he has been deployed out wide, given that it plays to his strengths as a dribbler, but this season he has shown that he still has a lot to offer through the middle as a traditional forward.
Rashford has worked closely alongside Benni McCarthy to gain priceless experience as a centre-forward, improving as the season has gone on with regard to his movement and reading of the game in the final third.
After arriving at the club, the South African coach outlined what he wanted to teach the attackers at the club, and Rashford has proven to be an extremely attentive student.
“Co-ordinating movements and finishing,” McCarthy said. “Making sure that the guys are sharp and that they’re ready and that the goalscoring continues and that they get the right goal scoring boots on.”
This advice has been acknowledged by the England international himself, who has hailed McCarthy for giving him so much guidance in the role.
“He’s definitely helped me a lot,’ Rashford said in early November. “To have attack-minded coaches is good for us in the squad, he’s always there speaking to us about these things.”
What is clear is that Rashford will be at the heart of United’s approach tonight, though what is unclear is the role he will occupy in the forward line.
It is likely he’ll play in at least two roles throughout the match, but the one he is asked to occupy from the start will likely hint at where Ten Hag believes he is at his best.
It is time to strike while the iron is hot.