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Why Marcus Rashford shouldn’t start the Manchester derby

Marcus Rashford burst onto the scene netting twice against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League back in February, but there were still question marks about the young forward, but, he went on to quickly silence his doubters just days after his debut, when he scored another brace against Arsenal, this time on his Premier League debut.

Rashford went from strength to strength throughout the remainder of the season and was rewarded with a call-up to the England senior team, where he once again scored just minutes into his debut. His sole appearance was enough to convince Roy Hodgson of his quality and he was on board the flight to France to play in Euro 2016. However, he was relegated to a role on the bench for England in favour of more experienced and misfiring forwards Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy. After a disastrous tournament from England almost every player returned to England with a damaged reputation, well, all except Rashford that is. England called on Rashford with just minutes to go in the Round of 16 against Iceland, and despite having the least time on the pitch out of any England player he was arguably the best player in that game.

With the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimović, Rashford has lost his starting role in the Manchester United squad, but this didn’t stop him from taking his chance when handed his first Premier League appearance of the season off the bench against Hull where he scored a 93rd minute winner to claim all three points for the Red Devils. This alone led to shouts for him to start the Manchester Derby, and these shouts were only amplified with his hat-trick for the England U21’s yesterday. However, I am of the belief that he should remain on the bench for this match, and let me explain why.

Manchester United have picked up maximum points so far this season and have looked convincing in every match they’ve played. The starting XI has only had one tweak to it since the opening day victory over Bournemouth and that was to see Ander Herrera be replaced by the incoming Paul Pogba after all, United couldn’t exactly leave the most expensive player in the world on the bench. United have a tried and tested formula in the front four of Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Zlatan Ibrahimović, so changing that ahead of the biggest game so far this season is not a rational move.

Also, Ibrahimović has been in sublime form for United since making his debut, currently tallying three goals in three games in the Premier League. So, if Rashford was to start the derby then he would be playing on the wing, not as a striker the position where he has made the biggest impact on the team when playing. An option would be to deploy Ibrahimović behind Rashford for the derby but that would see Wayne Rooney dropped for the line-up. Despite the fact this could prove to be the best long-term option for United, we will be playing the Manchester derby, so it would be illogical to not play with your captain for such a big encounter with your local rivals, especially when he’s been contributing with goals and assists in every game so far this season.

Finally, look at the impact that Rashford had against Hull City. Curtis Davis and co had been bombarded with the aerial threat of Ibrahimović for 80 minutes and had done well so seal the big Swede out of the game. But, when United’s attack was changed and Rashford began trying to run in behind the defence it had them shook, with Rashford’s pace causing all sorts of problems to Hull, and I believe that a similar approach would be effective against City. John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi could be exhausted by the 70th minute after having to deal with the physical presence that is Ibrahimović so then Rashford’s speed and deadly instincts in front of goal could punish any mistake that they make later on in the match.

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