Ralf Rangnick’s decision to leave Marcus Rashford out of his starting XI for Man United’s draw with Leicester City could be the final nail in the coffin for the striker’s Old Trafford career
With every game that Marcus Rashford is ignored by Ralf Rangnick, the Manchester United forward looks to be heading closer towards an emotional farewell from his boyhood club.
In what can only be described as the most disappointing season of his senior career, Rashford’s latest snub was perhaps the most embarrassing of them all. With Cristiano Ronaldo ruled out with illness and Edinson Cavani injured, the England international seemed like the obvious choice to lead the line against Leicester City on Saturday.
But interim boss Rangnick clearly felt differently, choosing Bruno Fernandes as his focal point in attack. It is the same tactic the German coach deployed in the Manchester derby defeat last month, partnering Fernandes with Paul Pogba — and it didn’t work. Gary Neville, working the game as a commentator for Sky Sports, described the decision as “incredible’.
On this occasion, Fernandes was more involved but the Portuguese squandered two big chances which ultimately cost the Red Devils two precious points, and the top four looks more of a pipe dream now than a possibility. Rashford, watching on from the bench, may have felt he could have put them away.
And when he did finally come on, the 24-year-old looked devoid of confidence. He was barely involved as United struggled to hold on for a draw. Few could blame him at this point for struggling to muster up the motivation to come on and prove his manager wrong, when there was clearly no belief from his manager that he could find the winner.
Since he returned from undergoing shoulder surgery in October, the striker has struggled to rediscover his best form for his club. Rashford has only managed five goals in all competitions this season and looks a shadow of the player that scored 21 and 22 under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2019-20 and 2020-21. Being dropped by England manager Gareth Southgate was merely the tip of the iceberg.
For a player who has spent his entire senior career with Man United, there appears to be a lack of support or desire to keep him beyond his current deal. Rashford will be free to leave the Red Devils in 2023 as a free agent and United legend Rio Ferdinand believes his apparent rift with Rangnick will push him towards the exit door.
“What must Rashford be thinking now?” Ferdinand told his FIVE YouTube channel. “Maybe there’s new contract negotiations behind the scenes, but if you’re him, you’re sitting there thinking ‘wow, this gaffer doesn’t fancy me.
“How can I stay here and sign this contract given the team would rather play without a striker than play with me?’ All the signs are so wrong. I’m not saying he’s perfect or played particularly well the last few weeks, but at the same time it’s the wrong signal.
“Forget everything else, if I’m Rashford, I’m looking and thinking ‘this guy does not rate me’. He doesn’t see me as anything if he’s going to play two midfielders up front instead of me.”
Ferdinand raises a pertinent question. Rangnick clearly does not fancy Rashford, given how he has preferred to use Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga ahead of him. What’s more, he spent the last two weeks on the training ground with Rangnick while his team-mates were away on international duty. If he couldn’t impress the German during that fortnight, when will he?
Rashford only needs to look at how Pogba and Jesse Lingard have been left in limbo after running down their contracts and how it has affected their careers. At this point, Rashford may be considering whether it is worth wasting another season of his career in Manchester if he is just going to sit on the bench.
Of course, there is still some hope ahead for the Wythenshawe-born striker — and that is the fact that Rangnick will be stepping aside to make way for a new permanent manager this summer. Erik ten Hag and Mauricio Pochettino are thought to be the frontrunners, and playing under either manager could hand him a chance to resurrect his career at Old Trafford.
But a transfer elsewhere may be the more appealing option. Arsenal are looking for a new striker to lead their line, while Newcastle are ambitious and would surely jump at the chance to sign a player of his pedigree.
If Rashford does leave, it will be with a heavy heart for the player and the fans — and Rangnick’s repeated shunning will be a major factor behind it. Only time will tell if the German will live to regret his treatment of the striker.