Erik ten Hag believes Marcus Rashford can develop into a genuine world beater if he commits the best years of his career to Manchester United. The United and England striker is a potential target for Paris Saint Germain who have floated the idea of linking him up with Kylian Mbappe.
But after confirming the club will trigger a 12 month extension to keep him in Manchester until the summer of 2024, Ten Hag says his job is now to convince Rashford he can become United’s Mbappe.
“He has to make a decision and the only thing we can do is show him that this is the best club to be in for his ambitions and how we are going to fulfil those ambitions,” he said. “It is obviously also a financial issue as well but these are the tallks we will have with him and then it is up to him to make the decision. But for one and a half years he will be here.”
Ten Hag’s is adamant that only Mbappe is better in the specific role of playing off the shoulders of a defensive line and he insisted that Rashford has improvement to come. “From the first moment, I recognised huge potential in Marcus,” said Ten Hag. “And now it is all to get out the potential.
“I believe when Marcus’s positioning is on the back of the defending line, there is almost no better player in the world. There is Mbappe in this moment, a type like him. If he makes sure he continues to get in such situations it’s really difficult to stop him.”
Ten Hag insists other elements of Rashford’s game have shown marked improvement including headed finishes and his pressing out of possession. “You see the second goal against Wales when he’s winning the ball for the team and then it was Foden who finished. I see him do that all the time, the first press, he’s doing a really good job there for England.”
Rashford, who turned 25 in October, had a difficult spell for United in the latter stages of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure and under caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick. The missed penalty in the Euros shootout and suggestions off-field work was impacting his form saw him cut an unhappy figure and a return of four goals in 25 league games last season was poor.
But under Ten Hag both the old Rashford and the smiles have returned and his United boss is convinced after a good showing in Qatar Premier League defences have reason to be concerned.
“One of the first things I said to him was come to training and smile. We bring him exercises that hopefully bring players joy. They have to be effective but they have to be joy as well.
“That gives you energy when you are happy. Actually, Marcus was one from the start who came with a smile to Carrington and left with a smile day by day. From that first moment, it really was a joy to work with him. I recognise his talent and his finishing talent is great.”