Three Replacements for Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford (photo by James Gill — Danehouse/Getty Images)

This season has highlighted that many Manchester United players aren’t good enough to consistently start for the club. None more so than Marcus Rashford.

The 2021/22 season has proven to be Rashford’s worse season to date, with the 24-year-old registering only 4 goals and 2 assists in 15 appearances in the Premier League.

Now, over the last few seasons, we have seen glimpses of how good Rashford could be, with highlight games mostly coming from the 2019/20 season against Manchester City away and Tottenham at home, where Rashford scored three across the two games.

But what’s been a major concern, is that the Englishman’s career has all but stagnated. There seems to be zero progression with him potentially becoming a top player.

Under Louis van Gaal, Marcus Rashford burst onto the scene scoring in his debut for the club against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League Round of 32, scoring twice at home. During his appearances that season, Rashford showcased his pace, skill and clinical finishing in front of goal, scoring in some big games including fixtures against Arsenal and Manchester City.

Under José Mourinho, it’s fair to say Rashford’s career dipped to a degree, with the Portuguese often playing him from the bench or giving him limited appearances. However, when Rashford played, Mourinho changed his position from a number 9 to be out on the left wing.

“I do not think he is a pure nine. He is not a target man, he is a man of movement. His best position is coming from the left to the centre and not when he’s the number nine. On the counter-attack, yes, but when you are dominating possession, he’s not a player who plays well with his back to goal.”

José Mourinho and Marcus Rashford (photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Former Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjær attempted to try Rashford as a striker during his time as caretaker manager. In the short term, Rashford was electric, but he was one dimensional at times, where the young forward really only thrived in transition moments or from balls played in behind.

Since then, Marcus Rashford has been played as United’s starting left winger and bar the 2019/20 season, where he had a period of scoring 11 goals and grabbing 3 assists in 14 games in the Premier League, he’s yet to impress consistently.

Now, there can be an argument made that Rashford never really got to develop his game over the last few years due to various injuries which kept him out for long periods. That is a fair call, as Rashford had been playing games carrying an injury, hence a lack of a solid output.

But, Rashford has still made 83 appearances over the last 3 Premier League seasons (including this present season). In that time frame, he’s only scored 32 goals and registered 18 assists.

For me, for a club like Manchester United to be having one of your best players rack up numbers like that, I feel it’s not good enough. But it’s not just those numbers as to why I don’t rate Rashford.

His decision making is ridiculously poor. Whether it was trying to score from free kicks that were extraordinarily far out, shoot from stupid angles, not passing the ball to players in better positions, trying to take on too many players or not tracking back.

Now, Marcus Rashford certainly has the potential to be a good player. However personally, I just don’t think he’s good enough. There are certainly some more tenable options in Europe’s big leagues that could do a better job than Marcus Rashford.

I’ve compiled three options that I believe United should consider going for, should they choose to sell Marcus Rashford.

*Please note, this is all completely hypothetical. It’s just a scenario that could be looked at by the club.

Raphinia

Raphinia (photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

The Brazillian winger may be a slightly out of the box option, however, I feel he would be an interesting signing for United to make.

Certainly, a very exciting player, Raphinia possesses great flair and technical ability, where his dribbling and passing are at a pretty high level.

Under the tutelage of renowned manager, Marcelo Bielsa, the 25-year-old has certainly caught the eye of many supporters in the Premier League, with the winger scoring 8 goals and grabbing 2 assists so far this season.

I’ve chosen Raphinia as a potential option due to his creativity on the ball, an area that Rashford lacks in.

I mentioned earlier that the Brazillian’s passing is at a pretty high level. This can be seen with his xA (otherwise known as Expected Assists). Raphinia has an average xA per game of 0.29, which puts him in the 89% percentile of wingers in Europe’s top 5 competitions.

As a comparison, Marcus Rashford has an average xA per game of 0.14, which puts him in the 36% percentile of wingers in Europe’s top 5 competitions.

This statistic is pretty important for a winger, as ultimately they need to play a role in creating play from wide areas.

What further backs up Raphinia’s ability on the ball, is the number of key passes he makes per game.

A key pass is by definition a pass to a player who then had a shot on goal (but didn’t score).

Often what we’d see with Marcus Rashford at United would be a player making a run in behind or into a good area, which the Englishman would ignore and often use that player as a decoy for himself to shoot from a distance.

With Raphinia, he’s more of a team player, which is what Marcelo Bielsa demands from his players but more importantly, that’s the sort of player that United need right now. Someone that thinks for the team rather than himself.

Raphinia this season in the Premier League averages 2.0 key passes per game, which is impressive given Rashford averages 0.5 per game.

Defensively, Raphinia offers a lot more than Rashford. We saw against Southampton that Rashford’s slow recovery to assist Diego Dalot during that phase of play left the fullback exposed and allowed the Saints to exploit the gaps in behind due to numerical advantages and quick passing.

When we look at defensive efforts, Raphinia dominates the major statistics with particular mention to interceptions made per game (1.43, 90% percentile), blocks (1.76, 90% percentile) and clearances (1.20, 95%).

As a comparison for a statistic like interceptions, Rashford is woeful in that department, as he makes 0.34 per game, which places him in the 1% percentile of wingers in Europe’s top 5 leagues.

In terms of how equitable Raphinia is for United, barring the fact that the 25-year-old plays for Leeds, this deal is certainly one that is achievable.

The Brazillian’s contract expires in 2024 and at this moment, he’s valued at roughly £35 million. I think a deal could be struck at about £60 million and that for me, would be a solid investment given how balanced he is as a winger.

Serge Gnabry

Serge Gnabry (photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

If you’re wanting to replace Marcus Rashford for a player with real quality who may be slightly expensive, then Bayern Munich winger, Serge Gnabry is your man.

With the contract expiring in 2023 and Gnabry showing no present intent to extend his stay with the Barivians, this deal would make a lot of sense for United to go for.

Although Gnabry has stated in the past that if he was to come back to the Premier League then it would most likely be with Arsenal, United could still have a chance due to the financial appeal the club holds, as Gnabry is wanting improved wages at the German club.

The German international’s is incredibly versatile across a midfield three, whether it’s being out wide or as a number 10. More or less, he thrives in a fluid 4–2–3–1 system, which would also benefit another one of United’s key players in Jadon Sancho, as the two could interchange positions out wide.

As a player, Gnabry is a really quick and technical player who likes to cut inside usually from the right hand side, where he can link up with players in central areas, as he excels with layoffs and tight combinations.

His finishing is deadly, as he averages 0.73 Non-Penalty Goals per game. To get an idea as to how good this is, this statistic puts Gnabry in the 99% percentile of wingers in Europe’s top 5 leagues.

As a comparison, Marcus Rashford ranks in the 82% percentile of wingers in Europe’s top 5 leagues, as he averages 0.38 Non-Penalty Goals per game.

It’s not just Gnabry’s finishing that’s impressive, it’s his playmaking ability as well. What would benefit United’s attacks much more would be having creativity on either side of the attack, and someone like Gnabry would really benefit a player like Sancho.

The important thing to note is that Gnabry looks to create more than Rashford. Both players to a degree are efficient inside the box when it comes to finishing, however, Gnabry is more balanced and here’s why.

The 26-year-old attempts more crosses (0.4) than Rashford (0.1) per game, more through balls (0.1) than Rashford (none attempted) and more key passes (1.3) than the Englishman (0.5).

Defensively, Gnabry does chip in a lot more than a player like Rashford. The more impressive areas where Gnabry ranks well among wingers in Europe’s top 5 leagues include tackles (1.90, 83% percentile) and interceptions (1.42, 89% percentile).

If United were to make a relatively big signing to replace Rashford, Serge Gnabry could be the guy and with the German international heading into the final 12 months of his contract, United may be able to put Bayern Munich in a difficult position, similar to how they got Raphaël Varane for cheap from Real Madrid.

Transfermarkt currently values Gnabry at roughly £60 million pounds, which is a bargain for a player of his quality. If I was involved with the decision making at Manchester United, I would make bringing in Gnabry a top priority if Rashford was to be moved on.

Paulo Dybala

Paulo Dybala (photo by Isabella Bonotto/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Now, this would be a blockbuster signing and I personally wouldn’t bet against United making a move for Dybala.

What’s been really interesting, is that the Argentine forward has been reluctant to sign a contract extension, that would tie his future at Juventus until at least 2025. However, right now, it looks like he’d be leaving the Old Lady for nothing.

So if United were really wanting to make a marquee signing, that would sell shirts and cost the club no transfer fee to purchase the player, then Dybala would be the man.

Everyone knew of his quality particularly during the 2015/16 season in Serie A, where he scored 19 goals and registered 9 assists in 34 games. Over more recent seasons, his form has dropped off although this season he has regained his form to a degree.

Thus far in Serie A this season, Dybala has scored 7 goals and registered 5 assists in 19 games. Not the same heights, but it’s not that bad given Rashford’s current form this season.

Paulo Dybala is a really tricky player, whose dribbling and creativity makes him a nightmare to deal with as a defender. If he was to join United, he would offer something different to the current forwards, more finesse and technique.

His passing and dribbling are at an elite level. Dybala attempts 53.51 passes per game (98% percentile compared to other forwards) and has an accuracy of 82.6% (95% percentile). When we look at how progressive his passes and dribbles are, this is how he gets likened to superstar Lionel Messi.

Progressive Passes are essentially completed passes that move the ball towards the opponent’s goal at least 10 yards from its furthest point in the last six passes, or any completed pass into the penalty area. For this particular statistic, Dybala averages 4.75 progressive passes per game (98% percentile).

Progressive Carries are basically carries/dribbles that move the ball towards the opponent’s goal at least 5 yards, or any carry into the penalty area. Dybala averages 6.07 per game, which places him in the 90% percentile of other forwards in Europe’s top 5 leagues.

His dribbles are often successful too, as he boasts 2.08 dribbles completed per game (93% percentile).

Defensively, Dybala does contribute to a degree, although it’s limited in some aspects in order to maximise his offensive output. Then again, his contribution is more noticeable than someone like Rashford’s.

In terms of tackles, the Argentine averages 1.19 per game (87% percentile) and in terms of interceptions he averages 0.93 per game (98% percentile).

Now, Dybala would probably be a luxury player but given the right system and coaching, the 28-year-old could certainly reignite the quality he has shown over the years.

The signing would certainly be low risk, given it would be very likely for him to be brought into the club as a free agent.

Final Thoughts

I mentioned in the disclaimer above but I will mention it again, as I want to make it clear; this is all hypothetical. Nothing to be taken completely seriously, it’s just a discussion point that quite a lot of fans of the club are now starting to have.

Now, realistically Marcus Rashford is unlikely to be sold by Manchester United. However, his form and consistency have been a problem for a few years now and he’s played a lot of games under a lot of managers.

For me, I believe he will be given the 2022/23 season to really prove that he deserves to play week in and week out, otherwise, the club may have no choice but to move him on.

Marcus Rashford (photo by Alex Dodd — CameraSport via Getty Images)

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