How do you fix a problem like Marcus Rashford? An adored player falling on hard times is one of the worst scenarios for any fanbase to witness.
The 24-year-old has struggled for form all season and is producing his worst numbers since his breakthrough campaign five years ago.
Rashford has only scored five times and provided two assists in all competitions this season, while being ineffective in many of United’s games.
He’s started only nine Premier League games and, while a shoulder injury kept him out initially, he’s been match fit since mid-October.
In each of his past three seasons, Rashford registered over 20 goals in all competitions. Unless he hits an unlikely hot streak in the next several weeks, he’s not going to get anywhere close to that figure by the time 2021/22 ends.
Moreover, last season Rashford supplied 15 assists and, again, it would take a herculean effort for him to match that tally this time around.
But it’s not just his numbers that are down. Rashford gives the impression of a player who has had the enthusiasm sucked out of him.
Watching Marcus, you get the feeling that he isn’t enjoying playing football at the moment. The exuberant Rashford of the past several years is gone.
“He looks too anxious for me, he looks like he is trying almost too hard,” said United great Paul Scholes on BT Sport’s Champions League coverage.
“Every time the ball comes to him it almost feels like he is trying to do something magical. It is probably the worst thing you can do.”
This theme was also picked up by Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves, who believe Rashford is overthinking his game and not allowing his natural instinct to flow.
Shifted onto the right-hand side of United’s attack by Ralf Rangnick for recent games, Rashford seemed uncomfortable and reverted back to his preferred role on the left for the game against Atletico Madrid.
But his performance against Atleti did little to bolster confidence. Rashford was scantly involved and taken off for eventual hero Anthony Elanga with 15 minutes remaining.
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Rashford finished the game with only 42 touches. Bruno Fernandes, by contrast, had 75. Moreover, Rashford left the pitch with a 71% pass success rate.
His decision-making has been something fans have been critical of in recent weeks, with the England international opting for the more difficult, glamorous pass rather than the simple one.
Perhaps a spell out of the starting XI would be good for Rashford – allow him to recharge his batteries and assess what’s going wrong in his game. A period of self-reflection could be the way to push past a season that has never really got going and it is something Elanga’s emergence allows for.
Reverting to basics could just be the thing to bring the swashbuckling Rashford of old back to life.