Marcus Rashford is reportedly set to be offered a new deal by Manchester United, but should get out while he can…
Despite the shame of the World Cup being held in Qatar, amid bribes, slave deaths and talks of boycotts, for England footballers it’s a tournament absolutely not to be missed. After reaching the semi-final in Russia and the final of the Euros last year, momentum and logic would suggest England have every chance of winning the whole damn thing. They’ve got an experienced tournament manager, one of the best strikers in world football and astonishing squad depth (in most areas, anyway). To not be in this England squad would be to miss out on the best chance of World Cup glory since 1966.
That must be a concern for Rashford, who was left out of the latest round of internationals having been a near-constant in Gareth Southgate’s squads for over five years.
He doesn’t work hard enough, he’s just not that good, he should have STUCK TO FOOTBALL, he’s been injured, it’s the manager’s fault, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s fault, it’s the club’s fault – there are various theories as to why Rashford’s form has dipped so significantly for United this season. As is always the way, many of those factors and more will have played a part.
But there’s no debate: his form has dipped significantly; he wasn’t worthy of a place in the England squad. After 36 goal contributions in 57 games last season, he’s managed just 7 in 26 this term. He’s struggling as most United players are.
Old Trafford has been portrayed as some sort of prison in recent days, with United players the inmates surviving the confinement, the gruel for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the risk of shanking, in the knowledge that the rec time of international duty will come soon enough. The heavy shirts that were embroidered with three lions in David Beckham’s time now feature a red devil to weigh Rashford and co. down.
Rashford and fellow yardbird Luke Shaw – who said this week he enjoys playing for England more than United – are reportedly set to be offered new long-term deals at United, as part of a ‘key group of core players’ the hierachy wants to keep.
And in a laughably typical move from a club for whom the communication and link between those dealing with on and off field matters has been a huge problem since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, they are prepared to go through with those contracts without the consent of the new permanent manager.
Rashford should not sign that deal. He need only look at what’s happened to Jesse Lingard, for whom staying at United has cost the chance of going to the World Cup in Qatar.
That may not be the case for Rashford. The new manager may put him straight back in the team, playing in a position and in a style that suits him. He may score a bundle of goals at the start of next season and get back into the England squad. But it’s just as likely the new manager doesn’t take to him and brings in new signings, leaving Rashford out in the cold having signed a bumper new contract.
It’s a safer bet to leave. Rashford is rumoured to be considering an exit from Old Trafford; in the report claiming he’s set to be offered a deal, a source at the club said the 24-year-old is keeping his options open. And he will have options.
Just over a year ago, the CIES Football Observatory named him as the most expensive footballer on the planet, with a transfer value of £150 million. Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain have been linked in the past, while Liverpool and Arsenal have been suggested as possible destinations in various gossip columns in recent days and weeks.
While Arsenal may make more sense than Liverpool, given the former’s need for attacking reinforcements and the latter’s plethora of them, either would provide a degree of certainty for Rashford; both Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta, by virtue of pushing for the transfer, would actually want him.
The new United manager can give as many assurances to Rashford as they like, but when it comes to the crux – poor form, a lack of goals, whatever – that new boss is less likely to be in the corner of someone who isn’t ‘their player’. Should Arteta sign Rashford, he immediately becomes more responsible for him than any manager of United could ever be. He will have persuaded Arsenal to spend £60million and it would therefore be in his interest to get the very best out of Rashford.
It will be difficult for Rashford to leave United. The club is all he’s ever known as a professional footballer and an exit brings uncertainty on a number of levels. But to get to the Qatar World Cup with England he’s better off upping sticks; in this instance, the greater unknown is at home.