Since the arrival of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal in January, competition has increased for a starting position in Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United first team.
Juan Mata, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have all found themselves rotated in order to play the Chilean, and none of the trio are likely to be happy that they've been somewhat cast aside.
With at least one of the three expected to leave Manchester United this summer, it seems that the least likely to leave is the young Englishman Rashford, but perhaps departing Old Trafford this summer might be the spark Rashford’s career needs.
Since bursting onto the scene almost three years ago under Louis van Gaal, Rashford has been heralded as one the brightest talents in English football - however there are concerns over the attacker’s frequent appearances on the bench, and how this might impact on his development.
LVG had Martial and Rashford as the best teenage talents in Europe. Jose comes along and they both look like they wouldn't make it at Leyton Orient. Mourinho is the problem.— Labile (@DatGuyDezza) May 4, 2018
Born just minutes away from Old Trafford, Rashford is the definition of a local talent. On United’s books since the age of 7, to suggest he should seek pastures new might seem like blasphemy, yet we should look no further than Rashford’s teammate and friend, Jesse Lingard, in order to find what's best for the 20-year-old.
Lingard is another United academy graduate who found his game time severely limited during his early career, spending several seasons on loan with the likes of Brighton and Derby County. Written off as a United player by many fans and pundits, Lingard’s sensational form this season has seen him become a regular starter for both club and country – the exact situation Rashford would hope to find himself in.
Rashford’s latest setback came in the defeat at Brighton. Replacing the injured Romelu Lukaku, Rashford moved in from his more common wide position to a central striking role - a position where England and United supporters have hoped to see him in more - yet he found himself unable to impact the game, often drifting out wide rather than running in behind the defence.
At 20, Rashford has likely not found his most effective position - arguably an expected result of rotation by his manager - yet it’s with this in mind that the decision to leave Manchester United, likely on loan, could help him understand his own abilities.
Unlikely to be short of suitors, his loan conditions would be able to guarantee him game time in a position where he feels he is best suited. Rashford may feel his future lies as a wide attacker, or as a central striker, and a loan move would provide him with the opportunity to decide that.
Staying in the Premier League would mean he gains valuable experience at the highest level, whilst also keeping him in contention for an England place.
Staying at United may mean another season spent rotating with other players, yet United have form when it comes to developing youngsters, especially those who have come through their own academy – every United match day squad for over 80 years has had at least one academy graduate named.
It’s also easily argued that by playing alongside some of the current United squad and potential future arrivals will only help his development, arguably more so than if he left for a team lower in the division or abroad.
Difficult decisions may lay ahead for him, but ultimately Rashford’s eventual career path will answer the question of if he lived up to his potential or not.
Flashes in the pan are all too common in football and both England and United staff, as well as fans, will be hoping that Rashford proves he’s not just another young player eventually remembered for what could have been.