Marcus Rashford scored five goals in the 2021/22 season and wasn’t even in the preferred first XI for large periods. Last season was significantly better – Rashford scored 30 goals, his most prolific in a Manchester United shirt. Erik ten Hag and his coaching staff helped revitalise his career, but before the Dutchman arrived, Rashford considered leaving the club he joined as a child.
“Before the manager came maybe a little bit [I thought about leaving], but it’s football, it happens,” said Rashford in San Diego ahead of Manchester United’s final pre-season game against Borussia Dortmund in Las Vegas.
“Everything is going to happen for a reason and he [Ten Hag] came to the club at the right time for me, the timing worked out. He always wants you to improve, whether it’s physically or mentally. For us as players it’s important he works on both sides with us and if he sees an obvious place to make improvement then he doesn’t shy away from telling it. It’s important for development and you never really stop developing throughout your career.”
What changed for Rashford last season?
“Just a little bit more freedom, I felt a little bit more stability. I think that gives you the baseline to try and showcase your abilities,” he said. “I enjoy scoring goals, I enjoy making assists, playing in the forward areas and trying to cause a threat to the other team.”
“We were just a little bit rigid in the past, sometimes you’re not enjoying your football and that was the case with me, I wasn’t enjoying my football as much as I should be, as much I was used to enjoying it,” he explained. “Because of that it influenced my performance and ultimately that’s how I am as a person. If I’m not happy then it’s difficult for me to play my best football.”
Rashford believes he can score more than the 30 goals he scored last season, but said he would happily sacrifice personal achievement if it meant the goals were spread around the team.
“It’s always the purpose of your career, you want to keep improving, sometimes it’s not always statistically [possible] but if you can improve your performance you will take it any way you can,” he said. “Hopefully I can get more goals and do more, but I’ll be equally happy if we spread the goals out more and everyone gets five or six more goals and that means we’re doing better than last season.”
Rashford, 25, recently signed a contract that should keep him at the club for at least five more years, but he’s rarely talked about as being one of the best strikers in the world. Is that what 30 goals every season will bring?
“You do have to be consistent with it,” he said. “For me it’s important I get consistent opportunities, it’s up to me to take it on, I have to keep getting in the right areas and hopefully the goals keep coming.”
Having a new forward in Rasmus Hojlund, who is expected to join United from Atalanta this week, alongside him should help, with Rashford happy to operate off the left or in a central role.
“Different games require different positions for me,” he explains. “There’s not a huge difference in terms of where I am, it’s just the starting positions are different, there’s different responsibilities. I enjoy playing in both positions, probably a little more comfortable on the left-hand side but always coming into that centre-forward and half-space positions. It’s not much of a difference, but the main thing for me is I must be in the areas to score goals.”
Watching Manchester City win the treble wasn’t easy for this lifelong United fan. “It’s not a great moment for Man United fans, but listen they’re a good team, credit to them, they deserved to win the Champions League final and they beat us in the FA Cup final,” he said. “They’re a good team. If you let them get in those positions they’re going to win trophies.”
Rashford believes United are not far off City's level but must match the consistency shown by Pep Guardiola's side if they want to mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title in 2023/24.
“We’ve shown in one-off games we can beat them; they’ve shown they can beat us. It’s the consistency that sets them apart," said Rashford. "I think the average points to win the league at the minute is 96, it’s a huge difference to what it was a few years ago, when 86 to 90 points could potentially win you the league. They’ve shown a new level of consistency and it’s up to the rest of us to try and close that gap.”
Rashford still buzzes off playing for his hometown club. He joined the club at age seven and is one of the many graduates from United's famed youth academy.
“Definitely, I don’t think the feeling ever gets old, you just want it more and more each time you score,” he says. “It doesn’t get boring.”
United's pre-season tour of the United States has seen them beat Premier League rivals Arsenal in New Jersey while a young United side fell 3-1 to Wrexham in San Diego before they were soundly beaten 2-0 by Real Madrid in Houston.
Man United ratings v Real Madrid
Ten Hag has told Rashford that, with the right attitude, he can surpass last season's exploits.
When asked to explain what Ten Hag meant, Rashford replied: “It’s concentration. If I’ve got the concentration, sometimes you might not have a chance all game and you get that one chance and you have to take it, if I can stay focused on that then I think I can definitely score more goals than I did last season, but I have to be in the goalscoring positions to get the chances, that’s the main focus.”
He added: "I’m hungry to keep improving and when the squad and the players and the staff keep improving and getting used to each other, pushing ourselves to be better than we were the year before. Ultimately, that’s the only way we’re going to get back to winning trophies consistently.”