Marcus Rashford has had his best season in a Manchester United shirt this season and by some margin.
Rashford passed the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career when he grabbed United’s fourth and final strike in the 4-1 demolition of Chelsea at Old Trafford on Thursday evening. Not only was it a personal milestone for Rashford himself, it ensured United will be back in the Champions League next season.
United have had a successful campaign, the first under Erik ten Hag after his move from Ajax over the summer. To finish third this campaign, particularly after the glum early days of the season and the 4-0 loss on the road to Brentford, would be quite the achievement with the job Ten Hag has done.
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The Reds have picked up their first trophy since 2017 with the Carabao Cup to ensure it will not be a trophyless campaign at Old Trafford and they have the potential to make it a domestic cup double when they face cross-town rivals Manchester City at Wembley on Saturday, June 3.
Rashford has played a key role this campaign, no doubt about it. A glance at United’s top scorer charts for this season shows he is comfortably number one by some margin, 18 goals ahead of Bruno Fernandes who is in second place.
There is a chance that Rashford, who came off the bench for the win against Chelsea, might be rested along with a host of United players who could be described as ‘first on the team sheet’ for this Sunday’s final Premier League fixture of the season at home to Fulham. With Champions League qualification secured, the main focus is the FA Cup final against City.
United have a chance to not only pick up their second trophy of the season, but in so doing, deny City their chance of winning the Treble. If they do so, the Old Trafford side would keep their memorable 1999 trophy record out there on its own.
And with that, Ten Hag faces a key decision of where to deploy the most potent weapon in United’s attacking arsenal in the form of Rashford. The choice is a simple one: play the England international through the middle as a central striker, or out of the left flank of his attacking force.
Ten Hag has played the 25-year-old on both the left, right and through the middle throughout the course of this campaign. But centrally and on the left flank are where Rashford has had his greatest success and they are the two most likely options of where he could line up against Pep Guardiola’s men.
The question now comes for Ten Hag to answer. Speaking after the win over Chelsea on Sky Sports, pundit Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was clear that he believes Rashford ought to line up through the middle when United take on City.
Rashford can, of course, play both positions and is happy to do so. But he has previously given an indication of which area feels the most natural to him and it could be a big indication of where he might start on June 3.
“I think I can play both [left and middle],” Rashford said in October. “The left side is probably more natural for me. I enjoy doing both, I’m just helping the team. I think that’s what is important and we have a lot of players in the squad who can play in different positions.”
Some key decisions face Ten Hag and it will be intriguing to see which side he goes with and, critically, where they line up when the teamsheet at Wembley on June 3 is revealed at around 2pm. Where Rashford starts is probably the biggest call he faces, but the attacker has already highlighted where he could perhaps best be deployed.
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