Marcus Rashford: Erik ten Hag saved my Man Utd career – now I'm enjoying football again

Marcus Rashford: Erik ten Hag saved my Man Utd career – now I'm enjoying football again

Marcus Rashford has been revitalised by Erik ten Hag’s coaching and man management – Getty Images/Matthew Peters

Marcus Rashford has admitted he could have left Manchester United before Erik ten Hag came in and resuscitated his career.

The England striker bounced back from the darkest period of his career to score 30 goals for United last season and impress for his country at the World Cup finals in Qatar.

Rashford looked totally revitalised under Ten Hag and was rewarded for his dramatic return to form with a new five-year contract a fortnight ago.

But Rashford says he had been considering his future at Old Trafford before Ten Hag’s arrival in May last year amid interest from Paris St-Germain and unhappiness at how things were unfolding at United.

Asked if there was ever a point when he thought he might leave, Rashford said: “Before the manager came maybe a little bit, but it’s football, it happens. Everything is going to happen for a reason and he came to the club at the right time for me. The timing worked out.”

Rashford struggled for form and fitness during the 18 months before Ten Hag’s appointment and had also suffered appalling abuse in the wake of his penalty shoot-out miss in England’s European Championship final defeat to Italy two years ago.

The 25-year-old said Ten Hag had given him the freedom and stability that had been lacking previously under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick, who often had him playing in multiple positions, and credits the Dutchman with restoring his happiness.

Asked what changed for him last season, Rashford said: “Just a little bit more freedom I felt, a little bit more stability. I think that gives you the baseline to try and showcase your abilities. I enjoy scoring goals, I enjoy making assists, playing in the forward areas and trying to cause a threat to the other team.

“Freedom? We were just a little bit rigid in the past. Sometimes you’re not enjoying your football and that was the case with me, I wasn’t enjoying my football as much as I should be, as much I was used to enjoying it. Because of that it influenced my performance and ultimately that’s how I am as a person, if I’m not happy then it’s difficult for me to play my best football.”

Bruno Fernandes had held talks with United to ascertain if the club was on the right path before signing a new contract in April 2022 amid concerns about its direction.

But Rashford said he did not require such assurances given the club’s upward trajectory under Ten Hag.

Marcus Rashford after signing his Manchester United contract -

Rashford signed a new Manchester United contract this summer – Getty Images/Manchester United

“Now the conversation is a little bit different because I think it’s clear, the manager is very ambitious and he has been since the minute he stepped in,” he said. “I didn’t really have doubts in my mind about that.

“I’m hungry to keep improving. When the squad and the staff keep improving and getting used to each other, pushing ourselves to be better than we were the year before, ultimately that’s the only way we’re going to get back to winning trophies consistently.”

Ten Hag has suggested Rashford can score another 30 goals next season so long as “his attitude is right”.

And the striker says the manager’s message is all about ensuring his focus does not waver and that he does not lose heart in games, even if things are not going his way.

“It’s concentration,” he said. “If I’ve got the concentration, sometimes you might not have a chance all game and you get that one chance and you have to take it.

“If I can stay focused on that then I think I can definitely score more goals than I did last season, but I have to be in the goalscoring positions to get the chances, that’s the main focus.

“It’s always the purpose of your career, you want to keep improving. Sometimes it’s not always statistically but if you can improve your performance you will take it any way you can.

“Hopefully I can get more goals and do more, but I’ll be equally happy if we spread the goals out more and everyone gets five or six more goals and that means we’re doing better than last season.”

United have agreed a £72 million deal with Atalanta for the 20-year-old Denmark striker Rasmus Hojlund but the burden for goals next season is still likely to fall predominantly on Rashford. Consistently hitting high numbers is what separates the likes of Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe and Harry Kane from the rest and Rashford recognises as much.

“You do have to be consistent with it,” he added. “For me it’s important I get consistent opportunities, it’s up to me to take it on, I have to keep getting in the right areas and hopefully the goals keep coming.”

Rashford says he is more comfortable playing off the left of the attack but is happy to lead the line. “Different games require different positions for me,” he said. “There’s not a huge difference in terms of where I am, it’s just the starting positions are different, there’s different responsibilities.

“I enjoy playing in both positions, probably a little more comfortable on the left-hand side but always coming into that centre-forward and half-space positions. It’s not much of a difference, but the main thing for me is I have to be in the areas to score goals.”

Rashford admitted it was “not a great moment for Man United fans” to see Manchester City win the treble last season but that they “deserved to win the Champions League” after overcoming United in the FA Cup final.

United finished 14 points behind City last term but Rashford believes they can close the gap.

“I think consistency is the key,” he said. “We’ve shown in one-off games we can beat them, they’ve shown they can beat us. It’s the consistency that sets them apart.

“I think the average points to win the league at the minute is [something like] 96, it’s a huge difference to what it was a few years ago, when 86 to 90 points could potentially win you the league. They’ve shown a new level of consistency and it’s up to the rest of us to try and close that gap.

“It’s going to be interesting [next season], we know we’re a strong team and as players you’re ambitious anyway. You’re going to try and win every game and win the league, there’s definitely that aim.

“It’s the focus. You’re looking at a 15 point gap to the top of the league. We can easily pick off five games where we dropped three points, it’s about correcting those mistakes.”

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