One of the biggest debates in football over the last week has surrounded Marcus Rashford and his lack of playing time as a central striker for Manchester United.
The 20-year-old scored both of England’s goals in the recent internationals against Spain and Switzerland, leading Sky Sports pundit and former Three Lions defender Jamie Carragher to question whether he needs to leave Old Trafford.
United boss Jose Mourinho hit back in his pre-match press conference ahead of the 2-1 win over Watford at the weekend – a match Rashford couldn’t play in due to suspension – by reeling off a long list of statistics about the number of minutes that the youngster has played under him since 2016.
His stats sheet included this dig back at Carragher: “He [Rashford] played a total of 52 matches with 2,676 minutes, if you divide that by 90, it gives 29.7 matches, so with me, in two seasons, he had 105 appearances, 5,744 minutes, 63.7 matches of 90 minutes, including five finals, so the people that is speaking about these minutes, I think they are a bit confused.”
While Mourinho’s stats were accurate, Carragher responded on Monday with a stat of his own, revealing that Rashford has started just 12 Premier League matches as a striker in the two seasons since “The Special One” took charge.
During the 2016-17 campaign, the former Chelsea boss preferred to use Zlatan Ibrahimovic as his main striker, and the Swede repaid his faith by scoring 17 league goals in 28 games and a total of 28 goals in 46 games in all competitions.
In 2017-18, Romelu Lukaku became United’s focal point in attack, scoring 16 goals in 34 league games and 27 in 51 games in all competitions, and he has started the 2018-19 season with four goals in five appearances.
Over the course of those two seasons, Rashford has played 70 league games, scoring 12 goals, while he has scored 24 goals in 105 games if you include domestic cup and European competitions.
Despite his relatively impressive goal tally for somebody who rarely gets to play as a central striker, it looks highly unlikely that Rashford will displace Lukaku in the No.9 role as long as Mourinho is in charge.
Following United’s 1-0 defeat to Brighton in May, a match in which Rashford started instead of the injured Lukaku, Mourinho said: “Maybe now you will not ask me why A, B and C do not play so much. People always ask: ‘Why always Lukaku?’ Well, now they know why always Lukaku, and why always this player and why always that player. We are probably not as good as people think we are individually.”
Carragher warned that Rashford doesn’t want his career to go down the same route as Danny Welbeck, who became a squad player after failing to hold down a starting spot as a striker at United and now has a similar role at Arsenal.
But unless he can prove this season that he can reach that next level of elite forwards, Rashford might have to weigh up his options next summer if he wants to truly fulfill his potential.
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