The former Premier League striker behind Rashford’s resurgence
Rashford is a man-on-fire at the minute.
Manchester United have been in imperious form since returning from the World Cup break, losing only once in the league at the hands of table-topping Arsenal.
Over the course of this impressive run which has seen them cement their place within the Top Four, one player in particular has stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Of course, the player in question is United’s star forward, Marcus Rashford, who has amassed a lofty tally of 16 goals in all competitions since returning from England’s disappointing World Cup quarter final exit.
Rashford, who burst onto the scene initially back in 2016 with a scintillating debut-double at home to arch-rivals Arsenal, had seen his development stall in recent times, failing to reach the towering heights many pundits and fans expected.
However, over the course of the last three months, the 25-year-old forward has finally taken the next step towards fulfilling his undoubted potential. But was the impetuous for this sudden revival of form?
The United academy product’s regained clinical prowess has coincided with the arrival of a former Premier League striker at the club, who has joined Erik ten Hag’s backroom staff with the sole aim of aiding the development of his squad’s forwards.
Having played as a defender himself, ten Hag felt he lacked the required experience to help improve his attacking players’ innate talents such as finishing and movement. Putting his ego to one side, the former Ajax coach set in motion the search for someone who possessed such knowledge.
At first, ten Hag reportedly sounded out Ex-Arsenal and United striker Robin van Persie for the role, but the Red Devils were turned down by the Dutchman who favoured staying in his current coaching position at hometown club Feyenoord.
After van Persie’s rejection, United turned to the unlikely candidate of former Premier League striker Benni McCarthy.
McCarthy, who spent five seasons in the Premier League during spells at both Blackburn and West Ham, began his coaching career upon retirement at Scottish club Hibernian and completed his coaching badges in Northern Ireland.
Most recently, the Champions League winner, which he won at Porto under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho, spent time coaching in the South African Premiership, where he guided AmaZulu FC to the African Champions League for the first time.
Already familiar amongst a certain vintage of Manchester United fans, after scoring twice as his Porto side infamously dumped them out in the Champions League knockout stages, McCarthy will surely gain wider recognition for his work at the club’s Carrington training base following this miraculous Marcus Rashford run of form.
Following one-on-one sessions with McCarthy, Rashford praised the South African’s influence on his game, saying that “He's definitely helped me a lot. To have attack-minded coaches is good for us. He's always there speaking to us about these things”.
Jadon Sancho is another forward who has benefitted under McCarthy’s tutelage, having recently undergone one-on-one sessions following his short stint away from the club over the New Year. The former Dortmund winger made an instant impact in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Leicester following his half-time introduction, scoring the final goal.
Speaking on the decision to bring in McCarthy and his expertise to the club, manager Erik ten Hag stated that “He is offensive-minded as he is a former striker, and that is also a really specific task in the team… Football is about scoring. You have a goalkeeping specialist, but you also have offensive specialists and, in particular, we have a specific scoring coach.”
South Africa’s all-time leading goal scorer also brings with him the ability to converse in four languages, another appealing trait given the presence of the likes of Alejandro Garnacho and Antony in United’s attacking ranks.
To cap off what has been an impressive first few months at United, McCarthy had the surreal experience of being serenaded by the Old Trafford faithful during the Leicester victory, as they offered up a rendition of “Ohhh Benni McCarthy” as a token of their appreciation to his role in not just Rashford’s, but United’s mid-season revival.