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Marcus Rashford’s performance for England offers hope – Man United News And Transfer News


Marcus Rashford’s performance for England last night in their European Championship Qualifier against Italy offered a template towards regaining the scintillating form he demonstrated for Manchester United last season.

It was the definition of a tale of two halves from the English forward at Wembley.

In the first-half, Rashford was particularly poor, demonstrating to the wider public why United fans have grown so frustrated with their number ten this season.

Clumsy and wasteful in possession, and ineffective out of it, Rashford appeared set to continue his abject domestic form on the international stage.

Italy were able to enjoy a large degree of success down England’s left-hand side, with Kieran Trippier frequently overwhelmed by two Italian players.

The Azzurri’s opening goal even came from a cross by Italy’s right-back, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, with Rashford unable to track the run, despite his best efforts.

Later on in the half, the United man didn’t bother to make the same effort, allowing Di Lorenzo to overlap Trippier and provide another dangerous cross.

The Italian fullback was also largely untroubled in the other direction by Rashford, who constantly gave the ball away and received zero overlapping support from Trippier.

At times, it appeared the two players were allergic to each other’s company, operating as a disjointed pairing in opposite halves, rather than an effective unit in both.

This lack of synergy with his fullback explains, partially, Rashford’s struggles this season at the club level.

United have endured an almost unprecedented injury crisis, particularly at left-back, which has forced the club to launch an internal investigation into why so many of the first-team squad have suffered injuries.

Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia have both been ruled out for the majority of the season, while Sergio Reguilon, signed hastily on the final day of the transfer window to provide short-term cover for those two, was then promptly ruled out with injury himself.

As such, Rashford has been devoid of a familiar face at left-back for much of this year. As an inverted forward – someone who operates most effectively when cutting in from the left onto his favoured right-foot – this lack of an overlapping threat on his outside has been detrimental.

Rashford’s confidence has been severely impacted by his drop in form which, in turn, has led to a further deterioration in performance.

The two factors – confidence and poor displays – are combining in an almost cyclical attack on Rashford’s performances; he plays badly, so his confidence drops; his confidence drops, so he plays badly; and so-on and so-forth.

Where the cycle was broken last night was the support network the England team provides; one Rashford is being deprived of at Old Trafford at present.

A powerful run by Jude Bellingham led to an England penalty, which was emphatically finished by Harry Kane in the 31st minute, drawing England level before the interval.

Half-time adjustments by Gareth Southgate then helped produce a resurgent England performance in the second-half, comfortably outplaying Italy and running out 3-1 winners.

More efforts were made by Rashford’s team-mates to provide support down the left-hand side, with even Declan Rice bombing down the left from defensive midfield at one point to create an option.

United’s number ten responded with a moment of magic in the 56th minute to put England ahead, courtesy of an emphatic finish which left Gianluigi Donnarumma for dead.

A ruthless transition, spearheaded by the irrepressible Bellingham, found Rashford in space on the left-hand side.

Rashford drove towards the opposition goal, cutting in onto his right, just as Bellingham made an intelligent run from the middle out to the left.

This generated the small amount of space Rashford needed to incisively cut through the heart of the Italian defence, finishing with aplomb in front of a rapturous Wembley crowd.

From that point, Rashford’s confidence returned and he played with a renewed sense of ease and energy. It’s an uplift in performance the forward has been unable to enjoy in a United shirt this season.

While Rashford is not fully exonerated of some of the abysmal performances he has delivered at club level, the fact he was able to rely on the quality of his team-mates in an England shirt to help him convert a poor performance into a good one speaks to lack of a similar support network at Old Trafford.

Similarly, the recognition of the need for help – down the left-hand side to open up Rashford’s ability to cut in – by Southgate is a tactical lesson Erik ten Hag must heed.

The continued emergence of Rasmus Højlund as Old Trafford’s newest striker offers hope for the central presence Harry Kane provided to Rashford last night.

The prospective returns of Sergio Reguilon, Tyrell Malacia and Luke Shaw over the coming weeks (Reguilon) and months (Malacia and Shaw) will provide the overlapping presence Southgate was able to instruct his England team to give Rashford in the second-half yesterday.

Which leaves Bruno Fernandes, United’s current answer to Bellingham, needing to regain his own form, to offer Rashford the same type of creativity and inventiveness the Real Madrid maestro provided against Italy.

Fernandes’ own performances during the international break have demonstrated the level he is able to produce.

Rashford is capable of far more than he has shown for United this season; he just needs some help from his team-mates and manager in doing so.

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