The suitability of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial

Throughout his time at Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has frequently referred to ‘Manchester United DNA’. The inference of this statement is a team which features exciting, young prospects, with a desire to give everything for the club. This sentiment may be translated into actions in the forthcoming weeks, as rumours are rife regarding the potential departures of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku.

In the 2018/19 season, Pogba provided 13 goals, while Lukaku bagged 12 goals. Therefore, their departures will cause United to have to find their goal contributions from elsewhere in the team. The two most obvious candidates to step up to the plate appear to be Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, who arguably have an immense footballing ability, as well as ‘Manchester United DNA’.

In regards to ‘Manchester United DNA’, it could be argued that Marcus Rashford embodies the sentiment. The story of Rashford is a football fairy tale, rising through the ranks of United to burst into the first team at the age of 18. While Rashford ticks all the off-pitch requirements for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, his ability also seems undeniably exciting.

In the three years that Rashford has been in the first team squad, he has provided 27 goals. In contrast, Cristiano Ronaldo scored 18 goals in the same period of time. Furthermore, Rashford’s physical development has been sensational, developing from a scrawny looking teenager to having immense physical prowess. If Lukaku does depart the club, Rashford seems like the most likely candidate to be United’s leading number nine.

The prospect of Rashford starting a whole season as the main striker is an exciting one, especially as Rashford was predominantly played out wide by Jose Mourinho. If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer persists with his new pressing based philosophy, Rashford seems the perfect candidate to enact Solskjaer’s instructions, as he’s blessed with pace and stamina, as well as the ability to interchange with Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard. 

In relation to Anthony Martial, the Frenchman’s candidacy to be at the fore-front of the Solskjaer era appears to be significantly more doubtful than that of Marcus Rashford. While Rashford is arguably a unanimous fan favourite, Anthony Martial has received some criticism in the past 12 months, predominantly in relation to his attitude. Martial is seen by a minority of fans as being lazy, and not fully invested in the cause.

The constant omission of Martial under Jose Mourinho reflected this view. However, in terms of ability, Martial is unquestionably one of the most exciting prospects in Europe. The mesmerising dribbling ability that Martial possesses, fits the mantra of a Manchester United forward. In addition, Martial’s finishing ability is sublime, especially considering the forward is only 23 years old.

In relation to filling the goals void left by Pogba and Lukaku, Martial’s statistical evidence suggests he’s the perfect candidate. Since joining United, Martial has scored 34 goals in the Premier League, while providing 17 assists. However, an aspect of his game that Martial may have to improve is his work rate.

This is due to the fact Solskjaer will demand tireless pressing and desire from his forwards, echoed by the Norwegian’s heavy focus on fitness so far in ‘Pre-Season’. Statistically speaking, Martial covered 160km in the 2018/19 season, while Rashford covered 254km. This shows that work ethic may be a key area for Martial to focus on if he’s to be at the fore front of Solskjaer’s plans.

If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to build a team that reflects ‘Manchester United DNA’, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford seem like the perfect candidates. Not only can the two young forwards compensate for the goals potentially lost by the departure of Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba, but the ability of the two forwards to operate in an interchangeable front line appears to be perfect for Manchester United.

While Martial needs to improve on the distance he covers, the fitness regime imposed by Solskjaer will presumably help the Frenchman in that regard. A key criticism of the ‘Post-Ferguson era’ is that United have been dull to watch, but if Martial and Rashford come to the fore, Manchester United could once again, provide scintillating entertainment. 

Written by Alexei Braithwaite

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