Marcus Rashford won consecutive Player of the Month awards at Manchester United in November and December 2019. Rashford had scored nine goals and provided two assists during that period and he was unplayable ahead of the New Year coming around.
Just three games into January 2020 and Rashford sustained a back injury. The world was unrecognizable when he returned from that problem.
The pandemic arrived in the United Kingdom in March and football was ground to a halt. When Rashford returned from his injury in June for the Premier League’s Project Restart, he found Old Trafford was soulless, cold and devoid of noise.
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Rashford has struggled to recapture his form of late 2019 since. He wouldn’t be the only person that feels nostalgic for the pre-pandemic world.
Rashford played through the pain barrier last season, but he failed to convince despite his respectable statistics on paper and his awful performance in the Europa League final encapsulated his underwhelming campaign. Rashford’s display against Norwich at Carrow Road this term in December was almost as bad as that performance in Gdansk.
Rashford’s body language has been heavily scrutinized and some have suggested he looks unhappy on the pitch. Sources close to the player actually say Rashford is training well and in good spirits, although they concede lui it is not transmitting to matchdays.
Ralf Rangnick is understood to have a good relationship with Rashford but the Manchester Evening News revealed earlier this week that the academy graduate is considering his future at the club following his snub in the Manchester derby. Rashford was named on the bench on Sunday while Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes led the line. Elanga, 19, also started at the Etihad.
The Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund has now arrived at United but that’s down the left channel, which is Rashford’s preferred position, so it could make sense for both parties to have an amicable divorce this summer. There have already been reports of interest in Rashford and United should be undergoing their due diligence in the market for potential replacements for the 24-year-old.
Rangnick is an admirer of Christopher Nkunku and the RB Leipzig forward should be considered on a shortlist of potential Rashford replacements. Nkunku is said to be attracting interest from Manchester City, Chelsea and United, and it’s not hard to see why.
Across Europe’s top five leagues [Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1), there are only four players who have more goals than Nkunku this season. The 24-year-old has an outstanding 25 goals in 37 appearances for Leipzig. Three of those goals were scored against City at the Etihad in the Champions League. United could have done with Nkunku on Sunday.
Nkunku is outscoring Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland and Dusan Vlahovic and he’s not a traditional centre-forward. Nkunku has played predominantly as a forward this season, but he’s played on the left-wing, right-wing and in the No.10 position.
His qualities allow him to play in different attacking positions and United have been at their best in recent seasons with interchangeable forwards, like Rashford. This could make him an attractive proposition for those at Old Trafford.
Nkunku’s statistics from this season, to analyse away from just his goals, are naturally better than Rashford’s. He’s only behind Rashford on two attacking metrics [dribbles and attacking actions], albeit he’s actually completing more successful dribbles and attacking actions, which is more important. Nkunku’s expected goals (xG) for 90 are also almost double Rashford’s.
It could be argued such impressive statistics from the Bundesliga with a view of a transfer to the Premier League should be handled with caution, but Nkunku passed the test against Premier League leaders City in September with flying colors. He also performs well on defensive metrics against Rashford and this suggests he should have no problem adapting to the demands of England.
Rangnick helped RB Leipzig sign Nkunku from Pairs Saint-Germain in 2019 and perhaps he’ll push for United to sign the forward after moving into his consultancy position, albeit the club are yet to outline exactly what that role will entail for the German. Nkunku will reportedly be available for £ 60m this summer but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Leipzig accepted a lower fee.
If Rashford’s last chapter at the club is to be written, Nkunku could prove to be an inspired replacement.
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