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Opinion Piece: Can Marcus Rashford become world class?

Is a player, event, or club all hype or the real deal? Welcome to the home of The Hype Train's opinion pieces, where members of our team discuss a wide array of footballing matters. Here, Ben Hunt discusses all things Marcus Rashford (MUN) and if the attacker can make it to football's elite bracket of player. All aboard.

Opinion: Why Rashford will be good…But not great (yet)

After 7 goals in 6 consecutive games Marcus Rashford is undoubtedly in the form of his life. He has all the technical qualities to become one of the stars of his generation, joining the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland. On his day he can be electric. He’s blessed with searing pace, is a unique striker of the ball and is an exceptional dribbler, so what’s been holding him back?

Is there a case for Burnout?

Having exploded onto the scene at the age of 18 with that brace against Midtjylland, Rashford’s injury record, on the face of it, isn’t out of the ordinary. It’s normal for players to pick up injuries here and there and it’s rare for any player to go through a season completely unscathed.

However, Rashford struggled for 9 months with, first of all, a back injury and then a shoulder injury. Throughout this time he continued to play through the pain and was having regular injections to manage the pain. This, although admirable, doesn’t bode well for a player who was still relatively young during this time.

You look at players such as Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen who also burst onto the scene at a young age, but went on to struggle with injuries, and you can’t help but think what could’ve been for them. By Rashford’s age now, 25, Rooney had won countless trophies, including the Premier League and Champions League, while Owen was already a Premier League Golden boot and Ballon d’Or winner. Rashford is yet to achieve anything close to this but could have similar issues with burnout. Let’s hope not.

Confidence is key…

Rashford is a confidence player. When he’s confident and happy he can be unplayable. But when he’s lacking in these departments, he looks lost, rarely endeavouring to beat his man and often dropping back to try and get involved in the play. This could be a direct result of the managerial turmoil at United, Rashford’s extracurricular activity feeding the UK’s school kids, or both, but it is undeniable that prior to the 2022/23 season, there were fears of a drop off akin to Dele Alli.

One of the prerequisites of becoming a World Class player is to have bucketloads of self-belief. You look at some of the best players from the past 20 years and they ooze confidence, even arrogance in the cases of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Which begs the question, does he have this elite mentality? Yes, he seems like a great person, very humble and his work with children is commendable. But being a nice person doesn’t make you an elite footballer.

Perhaps I am being slightly unfair. He has shown glimpses of strong self-belief, for example when he crashed home that stoppage time penalty against PSG in the Champions League or when he bravely stepped up to take the third penalty in the EURO 2020 final shootout. But he has also shown streaks where his body language is forlorn, and you can see he’s not even enjoying his football.

To be an elite player, you must have an elite mentality every time you step foot on the pitch.

The Curse of Versatility?

In some cases, versatility can be a blessing. I was a utility player and, despite lacking any real quality, it meant I was always given game time. The same goes for players like John O’Shea, who didn’t nail down his best position in football until much later in his career. On the other side of things is James Milner, who has built an entire career playing in almost every position on the pitch but has suffered despite his obvious technical ability.

Rashford’s issue at this point in his career is that despite nailing down his best position as a marauding left winger/forward, he is still being used in multiple positions, such as Number 9 or Right Winger. His ability to put in a shift wherever he is played is currently counting against him. But he is nowhere near as effective in these positions as he is in his favoured left-sided role.

Looking back over the years how many of the best players in the world were utility players? Not many that’s for sure. To become part of the elite group Rashford must become more selfish and rubberstamp his favoured position, or he might just end up as another well-respected Jack of all trades. The type of player that Gareth Southgate loves, though if you’re familiar with England’s set-up, this only gets you so far in life.

Of course, all of the above is if, buts and maybes. It remains to be seen whether Rashford fulfils his astronomical potential or, whether my prediction comes true, and he falls by the wayside and joins a growing group of players with middle grounding careers. There has been a renaissance in recent months and a brace against Charlton in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup are the latest notches in a return to form, both for the club and the individual, so it will be interesting to see how long the hot streak continues for.

I hope he proves me wrong.

Want to join in on the discussion? Ben Hunt is a new Contributor at The Hype Train in 2023, and you can have your take on our latest opinion piece by finding the Train on Twitter at @HypeTrainHQ, and Ben at @BenHunt1238

Want to know more about The Hype Train?

The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in general football and Fantasy sports reporting, starting with Fantasy Premier League (FPL), before expanding to MLS Fantasy coverage in 2018.

We pride ourselves in providing beautiful graphics, statistics, in-depth analytical reporting and free weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb rankings tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review games, live sport, and professional wrestling.

In 2019, Hype Train Football Club was formed, becoming the first Fantasy Football website to take to the field. HTFC is a socially active team across social and web channels, providing regular match highlights, match reports, comprehensive player statistics and unique player profiles. We won both Goal of the Season Awards in the Berkshire and County FA regions, with Callum Parr-Jones winning the Berks & Bucks FA award, whilst Martin King won the PlaySport UK award.

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The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog' in 2016 by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), and were again shortlisted as a finalist in 2019 in the 'Best Fantasy Football Blog' category.

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