Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick has admitted he’s not sure why Marcus Rashford is struggling at present. The England international started his team’s FA Cup showdown with Aston Villa on Monday night. Yet he produced another flat performance, drawing criticism from fans and pundits alike in the aftermath of the victory.
Manchester United were, once again this season, lucky to claim victory on Monday night with Aston Villa the better side throughout large periods.
However, Scott McTominay’s goal was enough to send Rangnick’s team through to the fourth round of the competition – with the Scotland international excellently heading home after a pinpoint delivery from Fred.
While United’s overall performance was poor, Rashford was again a worry with the 24-year-old putting in another flat display.
The England international is yet to score under Rangnick and looks a shadow of the player who burst onto the scene during Louis van Gaal’s tenure nearly six years ago.
Rangnick was quizzed on Rashford after the game and, worryingly, admitted he was at a loss to explain why his No 10 was so off the boil.
He also revealed he doesn’t see ‘much of a problem’ with the academy graduate’s form – or lack of it.
“Actually I don’t know,” he said.
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“I think he’s trying hard. In training he was doing well in the last couple of days, that’s why he was quite rightly in the starting XI.
“I think in the first half we found him quite often, but we also tried to get him into the box.
“In the second half that was not that often the case and that’s why at the end of the game I decided to make two changes with Anthony Elanga and Jesse Lingard.
“It was very important to progress into the next round. Yes (confidence is important) especially for strikers – it’s important that they score goals on and off, that there are moments of success.
“Of course it would be good, for example, for Marcus if he could score a goal but as long as he’s trying, as long as he’s training well I don’t see that much of a problem.”
While Rangnick refused to criticise Rashford, BBC Sport pundit Alan Shearer admitted he was concerned about the 23-year-old.
“I get that he’s had injuries,” Shearer said on the BBC.
“I get that he’s struggling with a little bit of confidence, amazing work off the pitch.
“But certainly a lot of the times this season, it looks as if everything is a chore. It looks like hard work for him. He doesn’t seem to be enjoying his football as much.
“I get that. It’s a learning curve, you learn how to get over that.”
Rashford was recently accused of sulking by former Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor, who took aim at the forward after United lost 1-0 to Wolves last week.
“When he came on he looked like a player, I can tell by body language as I’ve been there, he was sulking,” said Agbonlahor.
“He looked like ‘how dare you not start me when you are playing Sancho who doesn’t take anyone on’.
“Every time Sancho got the ball he passed backwards and was scared to take [Nelson] Semedo on.
“If I’m Rashford, I am going to be a bit angry and sulky when you see a player not in form and you are not getting the start.
“I’d pick Rashford over Sancho any day, but Rashford has to stop sulking.
“When he comes on, he has to be bang at it like it was when he broke into the first team.
“Even with the Manchester United fans, they were groaning when he lost the ball and wasn’t really sprinting back to get it.
“He has to wake up a bit.”
Rashford then appeared to respond by insisting he wasn’t sulking and was fully behind Rangnick.
He said on social media: “I read something earlier that said I’d been quiet on here but what can I say that will make this better other than showing you all on the pitch?
“We’ve all been disappointed with recent performances and we’ve been as disappointed with the news coverage questioning our commitment to not only the manager and the coaching staff but the club.
“I have endless respect for both and I’m looking forward to bettering my game under the staff at Manchester United.
“I’m not sulking, I’m not unhappy, am I disappointed in some of my recent performances? Of course I am.
“I’m my own biggest critic. It’s been a tough start but I’m determined to prove my worth.
“My dedication and my desire to be here should never been in question. I love this club.”