Marcus Rashford has spoken candidly about his new role at Manchester United, learning from Ibrahimovic and his dedication to becoming as good as he possible can.
Rashford, of course, will always be considered a child prodigy. Manchester United’s youngest ever scorer in European competition is a tag not easily earned despite many insisting that it is the mark of someone destined for greatness from birth.
Rashford has worked tirelessly to improve each aspect of his game. The striker, speaking with Sky Sports, is at pains to point out that his newfound success is hardly the result of any pre-determined ability, rather the fruits of many years of labour. And that labour is set to continue.
“We work on every type of finishing,” he said.
“There are some finishes we work on which you might never need. But you never know, so in case it does happen you have to be ready.
“There are some finishes where it’s natural but a lot of it is where you’ve worked and done it that many times it’s like you’ve imagined what you’re doing on the game day and have done it before.”
Playing alongside Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic of course gives Rashford the opportunity to learn from the best. The 35-year-old has amassed a wealth of experience during his career and most importantly, has the charisma and charm to pass this on in a meaningful way.
“But Zlatan has been a big help. He’s spoken to us a lot about things he’s come up against in the past and you have to listen because he’s been there, he’s done it and he’s won a lot of trophies and that’s what we all want to do. It’s important we listen and take his advice on board.”
Indeed, given the contrasting styles of both players, one may wonder if Rashford would have an appreciation for the tactics of a target man, a role Zlatan has built a career on. Rashford is quick to delve into the subtleties of the role, and how he can incorporate them into his own performances.
“”For instance, it’s not just about his strength. He puts his body in the right areas and these are things you pick up on. It’s about trying to put those things into your own game.”
However, such lessons are surely harder to put into practice when not actually playing up front. This season has seen Mourinho, understandably, stay loyal to Zlatan in the number 9 role. This has left Rashford with little opportunities as the striker-in-chief, and has forced him to adapt his game to other roles.
Wing play isn’t something that he has staked his reputation on in the past, but it is a role the 19-year-old is becoming increasingly familiar with.
“When I’ve been playing as a winger, there are positions you can put the ball into for the striker and when I go back into the middle I understand those positions more than I did.”
“It’s not just about showing people what you can do on the ball in those wider positions, it’s about gaining the full understanding of each position and what it takes to get that spot.”
Indeed, Rashford clearly has a tremendously mature mentality towards developing his game. He seeks to develop in as many positions as possible, to ultimately make himself a more potent player;
“Playing out wide is going to help me to develop to play in the middle in the long run,” he said.
“Looking at the game from a different perspective, it’s helping my game a lot.
“When I do get a chance to go in the middle, I find things more natural now. I do think it’s helping my game.”
Colm Egan, Pundit Arena