Manchester United heads into the first crunch clash, against Manchester City, with sky-high confidence and selection dilemmas to deal with. Anthony Martial, who managed to earn two assists in four matches despite not playing his best football, looks a little bit lost at the moment, seemingly disliking the fact he has to take on his right-back more often than run into space. Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford, who played on the left as a substitute and scored to allow United to beat Hull City, seemed to benefit from a forward presence off whom he could run.
The Old Trafford faithful are most likely to argue that, after Rashford’s late exploits, he should replace Martial in the side for the Manchester Derby next week. Both seem to struggle down the right-wing, but the same switch to the left gave Martial a lease of life last year after a similar breakthrough to Rashford’s at Monaco. In addition, Rashford seemed to occupy more defenders from the left side, having the creative freedom to roam and cause problems around the box.
Conversely, it seems Martial could benefit from being able to use his pace and trickery to run beyond defenders and find himself in central positions to use his incredible one-on-one finishing ability. Martial scored from a central position in exactly the aforementioned situation for France when he was put through by Paul Pogba during France’s qualifier against Italy.
In addition, it seems like a good opportunity to give Martial a rest, as the Frenchman seems to be looking a little bit fatigued after events in his personal life, but also given the sheer amount of football he’s played since joining United- he played virtually every game last season and then flew off to the Euros for France, with less than a month of time from the end of the Euros to the start of the Community Shield last year.
Placing Rashford on the left could be even more effective against Pep Guardiola’s City than in most other matches, with Manchester City’s fullbacks moving into midfield. Rashford seems more adept than Martial at pursuing wide areas, and, with Lingard on the opposite flank, the likes of Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta could have a little bit too much to do, creating space for Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to score goals in central areas.
With Memphis as United’s secondary option on the left, playing Rashford, who cuts out wide as much as he comes inside, could be a good option, because it gives United two different ways of confusing right-backs. With Rashford attacking one way, United could create goals by suddenly switching to Memphis or Martial, who will attack their defender in a different manner, or vice versa.
Eventually, Rashford should return to central areas, but for now, playing on the left could be better for his development. This works in the same way that moving Martial out wide was a temporary option, and he should return to central areas.