Three ways Manchester United could line up without Marcus Rashford. We take a look at how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team could play without their star striker.
After getting a knock in Manchester United’s Fourth Round FA Cup replay against Wolves, it seems Marcus Rashord will be out for up to three months, after The Times’ chief sports writer tweeted that the forward was carrying a single stress fracture in his back, which developed into a double stress fracture with a piece of floating bone in his ankle.
It is essential that Rashford is allowed the time to heal and rehabilitate in order to ensure the longevity of his career. Subsequently, this will force Man Utd manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to make some changes to his side and call upon players like Mason Greenwood and Juan Mata, forcing the squad to adapt when the numbers are already stretched. If these players did step into the side, it’s likely we would see the 4-3-2-1 remain, with a front line of James, Mata and Greenwood behind Anthony Martial.
Prior to his injury, Rashford has been the side’s biggest threat, something the current system has relied upon, with the Englishman being directly involved in 18 Premier League goals this season providing exactly 50% of Man United’s total league goals.
It would be beneficial for Solskjaer’s side to change to a 4-4-2 system. This shape is traditionally more physical and therefore suits the pace in Manchester United’s squad as it allows four forwards in the side if the need arises. In terms of personnel, there is a potential strike pairing of Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial with Dan James on the left and Diogo Dalot on the right. This combination would allow Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood to drift wide and give Dan James license to cut inside to get shots away. Additionally, it enables Diogo Dalot with the opportunity to not only hold the width but provide excellent delivery.
This system would work not only as a great defensive shape, but with a hardworking winger on the left and a full back on the right, it should prove difficult to break down and see United need fewer goals to win games.
The next solution is to look at transfers.
The only silver lining to Rashford’s injury is that it was during a transfer window so the club can go and get a replacement forward. Bruno Fernandes, if he does complete his move, would contribute goals and could supply a pacey attack of Mason Greenwood, Dan James and Anthony Martial. Manchester United would benefit from another striker anyway and there is potential to pick a cheaper, short-term option up in the January window, with Mario Gotze, Dries Mertens and Edinson Cavani all out of contract at the end of the season. Another available striker is AC milan’s Kristof Piatek but he’s a pure goalscorer that’s played his best football in a front two which could be limiting moving forward.
A real option could be Real Madrid’s Luka Jovic. Despite being directly involved in a goal every 97 minutes last season, Jovic isn’t getting a look in at Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid, with the Serbian playing just 22% of the available La Liga minutes this season. Man Utd need a clinical striker and Jovic is just that, so a loan with an option to buy could be a great move for all parties.
The final solution is to give youth a chance. There are a lot of talented academy players at Manchester United who, given the chance, would be able to impress – just like Marcus Rashford did. Although both Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong have been given minutes this season, it would be great to see Belgian forward Largie Ramazani given a chance on the left, as he’s been directly involved in 11 goals in 13 PL2 appearances this season.
French Under 16 International Hannibal Mejbri is someone who could really make a difference.
When playing at number 10, Mejbri operates as an advanced playmaker, dropping in to space in between the lines to get on the ball and create for teammates. Having just turned 17, he’s had a gradual but successful introduction into Under 23 football, assisting in each of his last three appearances for the side, at a rate of an assist every 39 minutes. It’s the teenager’s tenacity which is most impressive. Whilst he operates like a classic playmaker, his work rate would suggest more of a box to box ball winner.
What do you think? How would YOU set up Manchester United to cope without Marcus Rashford?