After his swashbuckling start to 2023, it seems impossible to imagine that Marcus Rashford’s alarming drop in form under Ralf Rangnick almost led to the forward leaving Manchester United, a club that he had been at his whole life.
At least, the 25-year-old was, for all intents and purposes, drained of all confidence and ready to find grass that was greener in the form of a new opportunity elsewhere.
Notably, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona were said to be keen on signing Rashford and ready to pounce as the forward’s contract entered the last 18 months.
In short, a parting of ways looked inevitable given how stale the working relationship between club and player had become.
The difference a year can make
There was, however, cause for fresh optimism after the Red Devils appointed Erik ten Hag in April 2022. The Dutchman was brought in to replace the faltering Rangnick and almost immediately set about implementing sweeping change at Old Trafford.
One of the most significant decisions Ten Hag made was to offer Benni McCarthy a role as one of his first team coaches, with the South African’s remit focusing especially on helping United score more goals.
It was, admittedly, an appointment that did little to inspire United fans at the time with most of the conversation centring around how much McCarthy could realistically offer the Red Devils given that his only previous coaching experience had come in South Africa’s top-flight.
You could argue that these were legitimate concerns expressed over the summer of 2022 but fast forward to mid-February 2023 and McCarthy’s expertise is certainly no longer in doubt.
In particular, the former Bafana Bafana striker has been able to transform Rashford’s fortunes in front of goal, so much so that if you bet on Premier League top goalscorer markets, you will see the Englishman’s name once again among the top contenders, albeit behind Erling Haaland who is at extraordinary odds of 1/33 to win the Golden Boot.
The Norweigan’s robotic-like efficiency aside, the wider point is that Rashford is scoring again, and regularly too.
Marcus Rashford is just ONE goal from equaling his all-time (22) best scoring record for Manchester United. 💪 pic.twitter.com/nyubBPg1O9— Football Daily (@footballdaily) February 13, 2023
Indeed, with McCarthy helping Rashford get back to his best form, the Englishman was able to equal a long-standing goal record at the club when he matched the feat of former marksman Dennis Viollet, who scored in nine consecutive home games in 1959.
On this occasion, it was Rashford’s winning goal in the derby win against Manchester City that put him level with Viollet and if only for the somewhat questionable intervention of VAR against Reading in the following game, the 25-year-old would have scored in ten consecutive matches at Old Trafford and held the outright record.
Irrespective of how disappointing this would have been for Rashford, the fact is that his form is worlds apart from what it was under Rangnick, and that can largely be put down to the influence that McCarthy has had.
The last month couldn't have gone better for me. On a personal note, it's the first time I've won these awards together and hopefully not the last. Thank you to my teammates, the coaches, my family and the fans for helping me to win these awards. 🔴 #PremierLeague #ManUnited pic.twitter.com/Aw9XD5iO6a— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) February 3, 2023
McCarthy’s arm around Rashford
Crucially, for all of his limited coaching experience, the 45-year-old is, of course, a man that knows how to find the back of the net in the Premier League and came agonisingly close to winning the Golden Boot himself during the 2006/2007 season when he scored 18 goals, only for Didier Drogba to pip him by two after netting 20 in a barnstorming Chelsea side.
Undoubtedly, Rashford has benefited from McCarthy’s Premier League know-how in front of goal but also the way in which he has taken the pressure off him and instead, tasked the forward with finding the love for football again, once that was done, the rest would take care of itself.
What the world is now seeing is a man that has rediscovered his passion and as a result, can’t stop scoring.