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Why is the ‘Marcus Rashford’s best position’ debate still a thing??

When bursting onto the senior stage in February 2016, it was clear that Manchester United had found themselves a special player in Marcus Rashford. Within three months of a bow being made, a precocious talent was a full international with debut goals in the Europa League, Premier League and for England to his name.

There have been plenty of highs since then, including two 20-goal seasons at the club level, 46 caps for his country, and a new four-year contract that was signed in the summer of 2019. Said deal includes a 12-month extension option that will likely be triggered at some stage in the current campaign.

Eventful

That is because Rashford has continued to see regular game time under Erik ten Hag – the sixth coach he has worked with in either permanent or interim capacities during a relatively short, but highly eventful run in the first-team ranks. His value to the collective cause has rarely been overlooked and football odds today suggest that he can help United back to the Champions League as they sit at 11/10 for a top-four finish in 2022-23.

Hitting that target would allow a reversal in fortune of sorts to be completed after the most testing 18 months of his career to date. Consistency can prove elusive for even the very best in the business, and Rashford will know that he allowed personal standards to dip when registering only five goals last season.

Those struggles contributed to him slipping out of Gareth Southgate’s plans with England but, having failed from the penalty spot in the Euro 2020 final against Italy, the hope is that a shot at redemption will be earned at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Fierce competition for places with the Three Lions has made life tricky, as has the seemingly endless discussion regarding his best position. There was an understandable desire when first making a name for himself to operate down the middle, with Rashford claiming to see himself as a central striker in the long run.

There was, however, never any escaping the fact that a role on the flanks appeared to play more to his strengths. Blessed with pace to burn, quick feet and an unerring eye for goal, his skill set was seemingly best deployed out wide.

Question

The question then became, which side should he be used on? As a right-footed forward, is he best cutting inside from the left or making direct runs down the right? Ten Hag, who has used Rashford down the middle and on both wings, has said: “He can stretch across all the three positions, and he can score goals in each [of them]. The best position for Rashford is the number nine or coming in from the left.”

Few arguments are going to be offered there, with there occasionally a need to line him up down the middle. It has, though, been abundantly clear for some time that a berth on the left is the most natural fit – for United and England. With that in mind, is it time to bring a long-running debate to a close?