The improvement in Manchester United is staggering under Erik ten Hag, and that improvement is best exemplified by the outstanding form of Marcus Rashford.
During his interview for the job, Ten Hag promised that he would help get Rashford back to his best, but few within United’s hierarchy believed that he could do so in such a short space of time.
Just over half a season into his tenure at Old Trafford, the Dutch manager has helped Rashford to 21 goals in all competitions – just one goal off his career-best season tally.
Ten Hag has instilled a real belief and confidence in Rashford, but he will be first to acknowledge the work of his backroom staff in turning around the forward’s career too. His assistant Mitchell van der Gaag and coach Benni McCarthy has worked with Rashford, but perhaps no one has done more for the England star’s game than Steve McClaren.
The ex-England manager was keen to work with Rashford, having been of the belief that the player had a huge amount of untapped potential, and has worked hard with the player in order to improve his game.
Just 12 months ago, before he was even part of the staff, McClaren spoke to the media about the work that could be done with Rashford.
“Body language is so, so important and that was the criticism of United players. But Rashford has probably had this problem throughout his career, in terms of questioning his attitude,” said the former England boss.
“He gets deterred too easily and doesn’t fight through bad moments. He doesn’t stay in the game. If he’s not having a good first half, he’ll never have a good second half. Somebody needs to give him the tools to come out of the bad times.”
How telling are those comments today. You only need look at Rashford’s performance at Elland Road, a game in which he followed up a poor first half performance with a game-winning second, to see that changes in the Man Utd star’s game.
Since the World Cup, no player in world football has been in better form or has been as consistently impressive as Rashford. In his 15 games since the tournament, the forward has scored 13 goals and bagged four assists in all competitions. A truly spectacular return in the final third.
“He is one of them, he has the skills – I knew this from the first moment, I was excited to work for with him and I thought I could get more out of him, he has such high potential and I think he can be even more, if he works he will score more goals,” Ten Hag said after the win over Leeds.
“If he keeps investing, his focus and his belief, he will keep scoring – he has to go from game to game and during the week has to do the right things, as a manager, and coaching staff we have to push him but the focus has to come from the player.”