Time has come for Man Utd to cash in on misfiring Marcus Rashford - replacing Kylian Mbappe at PSG could be the perfect transfer for all involved

Posted Wednesday, February 21, 2024 by Goal.com

Time has come for Man Utd to cash in on misfiring Marcus Rashford - replacing Kylian Mbappe at PSG could be the perfect transfer for all involved

The 26-year-old has reached his ceiling at Old Trafford after nine years in the first team, and a switch to France could suit all parties

"I joined Manchester United as a seven-year-old boy with a dream," Marcus Rashford told Manchester United's official website after signing a new five-year contract last July. "That same passion, pride and determination to succeed still drives me every time I have the honour of wearing the shirt, and I remain relentlessly determined to win more trophies in the years ahead. As a United fan all my life, I know the responsibility that comes with representing this badge. I can assure you that I will give everything to help the team reach the level we are capable of."

That deal saw Rashford become the highest-paid player at Old Trafford, on a reported £370,000-per-week, and was a reward for his first 30-goal season in the iconic red jersey. He finally appeared to be fulfilling his potential under Erik ten Hag and United broke their wage structure once again in order to secure his long-term future.

But in the space of just eight months, Rashford has broken his promise to the fans. He's managed just five goals in 30 appearances so far in 2023-24, and looks a shadow of the player who inspired United's surge back into the top-four.

Rashford's shocking decline cannot be dismissed as merely a blip either. The England international made his senior debut for the Red Devils almost 10 years ago, and has since developed a reputation as a streaky player, with prolific bursts always followed by disappointing lulls.

In truth, United don't really have any need for Rashford anymore; he's used up all of his nine lives and is no longer worthy of special treatment as the club's current longest-serving academy graduate. As fate would have it, Paris Saint-Germain are currently in the market for new forward as Kylian Mbappe edges closer to joining Real Madrid, and Rashford is reportedly on their list of potential targets.

United should jump at the chance if PSG do indeed table a formal bid in the summer, not least because his market value is dropping with each passing game - but it's a move that Rashford should also be pushing for himself.

Tested Ten Hag's patience

Watching Rashford was a painful experience in the first half of the season, as he seemed to be doing his best to sabotage almost every United attack by running into trouble, shooting from ridiculous angles or misplacing simple passes. There was plenty of blame to go around, but Rashford deservedly took the brunt of it as the Red Devils plummeted down the Premier League table and crashed out of the Champions League.

Rashford has also been guilty of a couple of disciplinary breaches that have forced Ten Hag to put his foot down. Ten Hag left Rashford out of a fourth-round FA Cup tie at Newport County after he was spotted out drinking in Belfast, having initially called in sick for training. Rashford wasn't kept out in the cold for very long, though, with United confirming his reintegration to the squad ahead of a subsequent Premier League clash with Wolves, insisting the matter was closed after he "took responsibility" for his actions.

Back in November, Ten Hag dropped Rashford from a Carabao Cup tie against Newcastle as punishment for his visit to a nightclub in Manchester just a few hours after United's 3-0 derby defeat to City. And towards the back end of last season, Rashford was benched for a trip to Wolves after reporting late to a team meeting.

When you consider how swiftly Ten Hag has dealt with other infractions in the dressing room, most notably involving Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo, Rashford should count himself very lucky to still be playing regularly. The Athletic reported that Ten Hag was "deeply disappointed" and "angered" by Rashford's drunken escapades, but it hasn't damaged their relationship, and he still believes in the player's abilities.

Being so forgiving could come back to bite Ten Hag, because history shows Rashford is unlikely to learn his lesson. United legend Gary Neville has suggested this could just be Rashford's new "personality", while his old team-mate Roy Keane has insisted there is no excuse for his behaviour. "The penny has to drop for Rashford. You’re 26, you’re an experienced player in the dressing room," Keane said on Sky Bet's 'Stick to Football' podcast. "You must hold your hands up and say, ‘I have been an idiot’.”

Not playing for the badge or manager

Ten Hag was vindicated when Rashford scored in United's thrilling 4-3 victory at Molineux on February 1, and the 26-year-old also lined up on the left in subsequent victories over West Ham, Aston Villa and Luton Town. The Red Devils have finally found some form and now sit just five points outside the top four, but there is still a lingering sense that Rashford is not contributing enough to the collective cause.

United's resurgence has been underpinned by the stellar performances of Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo. Their youthful energy and fearlessness is helping to paper over the glaring weaknesses that still exist across the pitch, with the spotlight no longer on Rashford.

But there is no way it can last. The Red Devils are relying purely on individual brilliance, and that won't be enough to beat the top sides; Ten Hag's men will probably learn that lesson the hard way when they come up against City at the Etihad Stadium on March 3.

To have any hope of beating the champions, United would have to press full throttle from the first minute to the last, which won't happen if Rashford is on the pitch. The England attacker went viral for his lack of effort out of possession against Luton, as he allowed Ross Barkley to just skip past him without even attempting to block his path despite the game still being in the balance late in the second half.

Rashford isn't playing for the badge, and he certainly isn't playing for Ten Hag, so what is the point in him sticking around at Old Trafford beyond the summer?

PSG move 'makes sense'

PSG's interest in Rashford dates all the way back to 2022, when an approach was made that summer before club president Nasser al-Khelaifi described him as "an amazing player" in a revealing interview with Sky Sports. At that stage, the Ligue 1 giants were eyeing a potential free transfer for Rashford, but he eventually decided to pen fresh terms at Old Trafford.

Now, even taking into account Rashford's dramatic decline, United would be able to command a sizeable fee for their prized asset. They may be able to squeeze an extra £10m or £20m out of PSG, too, given the fact they are now desperately scrambling to fill a key attacking role in their squad.

According to The Times, PSG will have £170m ($214m) to spend on new players once they get Mbappe's salary off their books, and the bulk of that will be invested in a direct replacement. Victor Osimhen is also on their shortlist, but Napoli are said to be demanding well over £100m ($126m) for the striker, and PSG may prefer Rashford as a cheaper alternative.

The report also states that PSG’s football adviser, Luis Campos, has long been an admirer of Rashford, and even held informal talks with the United star two years ago. If Rashford wants a transfer to Parc des Princes, it appears it wouldn't take much to make it happen.

Filling Mbappe's shoes would create a whole new weight of expectation, though, as former United striker Louis Saha recently told Betfred: "Marcus is a huge name and he’s going to receive a lot of press attention and that’s a challenge in itself. Going abroad to PSG may change the parameters, but he will still be under massive pressure there too.

"It would make sense if Kylian leaves, but I don’t think it will change anything for him in terms of the scrutiny he will be under. He has to improve his game, score more goals and do more because he can."

Time has come for Man Utd to cash in on misfiring Marcus Rashford - replacing Kylian Mbappe at PSG could be the perfect transfer for all involved

Easier ride in Ligue 1

It stands to reason that if Rashford can score 15-plus goals in a single Premier League season, he is capable of at least matching that tally in Ligue 1. Any comparisons between Rashford and Mbappe should be taken with a pinch of salt given the PSG superstar is a World Cup winner who has proven himself as a truly world-class player, but playing in the French top-flight has certainly helped to inflate his career statistics so far.

Mbappe has hit over 30 goals in each of PSG's last three domestic campaigns, and is well on course to do the same again this term having found the net 21 times in just 20 appearances. Those are the sorts of numbers that only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland can match in the modern era, and while there is no doubt that Mbappe has more than justified PSG's initial £166m ($209m) investment in his talent, it would be a surprise if he replicates that kind of form in Madrid.

Ligue 1 is currently ranked fifth in UEFA's coefficients table with 62.831 points, some 20 points behind the Bundesliga in fourth and almost 40 adrift of the first-placed Premier League. That just goes to prove how far French football is behind the rest of Europe's top leagues right now, with PSG once again their only representatives in the last-16 of the Champions League.

Rashford is not on Mbappe's level, but he could also capitalise on the lack of defensive quality in Ligue 1 if he joins Luis Enrique's side. The former Barcelona manager is also more experienced than Ten Hag when it comes to working with big players and egos, and might also be able to bring the best out of the enigmatic forward on a more consistent basis.

Time has come for Man Utd to cash in on misfiring Marcus Rashford - replacing Kylian Mbappe at PSG could be the perfect transfer for all involved

Tactical concerns

There is one major caveat to Rashford replacing Mbappe, though. For the majority of the current campaign, Mbappe has played through the middle as a traditional No.9, albeit while still floating in from the left in his trademark manner.

PSG's talisman is more comfortable cutting in from out wide, but loses none of his scoring threat when asked to lead the line, which is not a statement that is also applicable to Rashford. United have had to use Rashford as a striker on numerous occasions in recent years as a host of top transfer targets have fallen by the wayside, and while he has still pitched in with his fair share of goals in that position, it doesn't come naturally to him.

"I do prefer left [wing]," Rashford said on The Overlap last year. "Left is easier to stay in the game, that's why I struggle playing centre-forward sometimes because of my patience. You might not touch the ball for 20 minutes, and then your first touch might be an opportunity to score. You have to be mentally switched on. I never enjoyed that aspect of it."

That lack of concentration might not matter so much in Ligue 1, but PSG would be taking a huge gamble if they were to trust Rashford as their main centre-forward in the Champions League. Signing a new frontman alongside Rashford would make more sense, but even then, he would face fierce competition for a spot on the left from 21-year-old Bradley Barcola, who has turned out to be the most impressive of all PSG's new signings from last summer.


Randal Kolo Muani and Ousmane Dembele's debut-season struggles at PSG should also serve as cautionary tales for Rashford. Kolo Muani was one of the best players in the Bundesliga last season at Eintracht Frankfurt, and Dembele played a key role in Barcelona's run to the La Liga title, but both men have flattered to deceive so far at Parc des Princes.

The French capital might seem like a better environment for Rashford on paper, but any move to PSG would only be a success if he is in the right place mentally, which he certainly hasn't been at United over the past few months. However, it may also be true that a fresh start is the only thing that will break the cycle for Rashford as he approaches the peak years of his career.

"He looks tormented at this moment in time. I think he looks bored, he looks stale," former Chelsea and Blackburn striker Chris Sutton told the Daily Mail in December. "I think that he's a player who actually needs a move away from Old Trafford. He just seems to be meandering along. I think there are questions about his work ethic within the team, and I think that that's a totally legitimate question and criticism. I don't think he's working hard enough. But he looks like a player who needs a fresh challenge."

There was a time when the prospect of Rashford leaving Old Trafford would have been a nightmare scenario for United fans. But according to surveys conducted by United We Stand and Reissued in January, 75 percent of supporters would welcome the sale of the former academy starlet at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Red Devils may finally be heading in the right direction again after Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS' arrival as minority shareholders at Old Trafford, but every single member of the squad needs to buy into their vision and give their all to ensure it comes to fruition. Rashford has run away from responsibility throughout his time with United, and doesn't deserve to be a part of the revolution.

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