In Focus: Rashford roaring at the perfect time for Three Lions
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Mitchell Fretton
LiveScore
Marcus Rashford scored the winner as Manchester United beat West Ham
Marcus Rashford scored the winner as Manchester United beat West Ham

After a miserable campaign last season, Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford is enjoying a new lease of life under Erik ten Hag.

The striker has netted seven times in all competitions this term and his match-winning header against West Ham was his 100th goal for the Red Devils.

With his upturn in form over the last few months, questions are starting to be asked as to whether United's academy graduate should be starting for England at the World Cup.

We turn the spotlight on Rashford, who will be looking to add to his tally for the season when United head to Real Sociedad on Thursday.

Old Trafford troubles

From the start of the 2018-19 season, Rashford scored more than 10 league goals in three consecutive campaigns, building a record of success at Old Trafford.

But the constant pressure to perform clearly caught up with the 25-year-old last term, as he managed just four Premier League strikes in 25 outings under failed bosses Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick.

Rashford has already equalled those numbers in 2022-23, suggesting that his loss of form was a temporary blip.

Ten Hag's arrival has reinvigorated the 46-cap international, who is showing the kind of desire and confidence that earned him so many plaudits when he arrived on the scene in 2016.

A man reborn

Marcus Rashford has shown greater confidence in front of goal this season
Marcus Rashford has shown greater confidence in front of goal this season

The determination that Rashford displayed when leaping for the game-winning header at Old Trafford on Sunday was in stark contrast to the player who looked afraid to make telling contributions under Solskjaer and Rangnick.

Rashford himself has admitted he was not himself under the previous two managers while Ten Hag has helped him recapture the best aspects of his game.

Speaking after the win over the Hammers, he said: "It's a completely different energy around the club and the training ground.

"That puts me in a better headspace and I just feel really motivated now. That's the area I was struggling in.

"I was struggling at times with more mental things. It wasn't really my own performance but other things off the pitch. That's the biggest difference from last season.

"I get that it's your job to speak about what happens on the pitch but for the players we have to get into the right headspace for every game."

Enough for England?

Marcus Rashford looks back to his best for Manchester United
Marcus Rashford looks back to his best for Manchester United

Although the Red Devils are impressing, there is still a gap in both performance and consistency between Rashford and his rivals for a starting spot in Qatar.

With Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane likely to lock down a place in England's front three, Rashford will have to compete with Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Jack Grealish for the remaining spot. 

Also waiting in the wings are in-form attacking talents Ivan Toney and Callum Wilson.

But Rashford's major tournament experience at Euro 2016, the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 should stand him in good stead, along with his tally of 12 international goals.

His pace, power and ability to score from distance makes him a great candidate for the 26-man squad, but he must continue to perform over the next three weeks.

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate is someone who likes to show trust in his players and Rashford has given him plenty of reason to do so in his case.

Qatar calling

Marcus Rashford has been playing in a more advanced role under Erik ten Hag
Marcus Rashford has been playing in a more advanced role under Erik ten Hag

Rashford's ability to score is not the only thing to have improved under Ten Hag in the past few months.

His new-found confidence has led to an increase in numbers in almost every area of his game in comparison to last season.

The forward is averaging 2.84 shots per 90 minutes in comparison to 1.61 in 2021-22 and is creating 0.95 chances per 90 compared to 0.66 last season.

He is also completing more crosses, winning more aerial duels, recording more tackles and providing more through balls than he was in the last campaign.

This has been noticed by pundits, in particular ex-England international Jermaine Jenas, who said: "Based on his performance in Manchester United's win over West Ham, Rashford is more than just a player who 100% has to be in the Three Lions squad. 

"Instead, after watching him at Old Trafford on Sunday, England boss Gareth Southgate will be thinking Rashford might have to start their first game."

Rashford does look like the best version of himself once more, but he still has a lot of work to do if he is going to cement a place in England's starting XI this winter.

Tags

Premier LeagueEuropa LeagueManchester UnitedMarcus RashfordEnglandWorld Cup
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