Rejuvenated Marcus Rashford can thank Benni McCarthy for Manchester United resurgence

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford during a match

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford has been banging in the goals again this season, and much of that can be due to the influence of Benni McCarthy as an attack coach. Picture: Isabel Infantes

Published Feb 17, 2023


Johannesburg - There is no doubt that South African football legend Benni McCarthy appears to be playing a big role in the resurgence of Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford.

The attacker confirmed as much in November, saying, “he’s definitely helped me a lot. To have attack-minded coaches for us in the squad, he’s always there speaking to us about these things,”.

Rashford burst onto the scene in 2015, dubbed “the next big thing” and the “next Wayne Rooney” due to his potential. He struggled for consistency and some speculated that he would leave United after having only scored five goals in all competitions last season which really is a poor return.

This season, Rashford has already scored 22 goals in all competitions. This equals his personal record, set during the 2019/2020 season which he is all but certain to beat.

McCarthy’s own managerial career in South Africa attracted it’s fair share of praise and criticism. He won a trophy with Cape Town City in his first managerial spell and then led Durban-based AmaZulu to an impressive second place league finish in the 2020/2021 season, which represented their highest ever finish since the inception of the PSL in 1996.

However with that came criticism of McCarthy's overly jovial conduct. In press conferences, he often came across as not being serious and may have said things which would have been embarrassing to his former club owners. Towards the end of his spells with both City and Usuthu, he appeared to have lost the dressing room.

Time will tell whether McCarthy returns as a first-team coach. While he showed flaws as a head coach, he did have potential and also appears to be a great technical team member.

When Erik Ten Hag took over United at the start of the season, he cited adding McCarthy to his roster as the Dutchman did not have experience playing in attacking roles during his own playing career.

“He will focus on the positioning and attacking. I’m not saying only the strikers but also the integration from the full-backs and midfielders. Our way of play has to be dynamic,” said Ten Hag at the start of the season.

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There has definitely been a difference made since the introduction of McCarthy. In recent years, United’s attacking patterns of play have often been too predictable, especially when opposition teams sat back which created a low success rate for counter-attacks.

Against low blocks, the team often normally passed around which resulted in frustration as one of the players would end it (usually unsuccessfully) with a random long-shot.

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This season, United are succeeding in utilising space more efficiently when on and off the ball which has aided Rashford’s goal output. Rashford is now even scoring headers, a component of the game which he struggled with previously, proving that there has been a positive influence this season.

United currently sit third in the league and still have a long-way to go in their own development, but they certainly have a good chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season.


IOL Sport