Erik ten Hag saving sulky Marcus Rashford’s career will be like a new signing
Erik ten Hag looked more like the man from Delmonte than a knight in shining armour when he rode into Old Trafford for the first time.
Decked out in a white linen suit, Ten Hag resembled someone who believes first impressions count. But all that matters to Manchester United is that the Dutchman doesn't end up being the latest boss to have all the gear but no idea, as he embarks on a project that will define his managerial career.
It won't take long for Ten Hag to realise his "to do" list is longer than a printout of one of Oliver Reed's old bar bills. He must sign better players and get the ones he's been left with much fitter. He must change the current culture of a place going to rack and ruin and rid the playing side of Old Trafford of that arrogant sense of entitlement.
He must provide the team with an identity and purpose, choose a new captain and decide what to do with Cristiano Ronaldo, who remains a wonderful talent but, at the age of 37, is not the future. He must also unite a divided dressing room. Good ones police themselves, but Ten Hag is walking into one with more bad apples than an orchard in the autumn.
There will not be enough hours in the day for Ten Hag and change won't happen overnight. But one of the most pressing problems he has to fix shouldn't take too long for him to solve – and it comes in the shape of Marcus Rashford.
Having missed the first two months of last season following a shoulder operation, Rashford spent the rest of it sulking after finding himself in and out of the team and struggling to find his best form. He started just 13 of 38 league games and found himself frozen in the final weeks of a woeful campaign, having failed to strike up a working relationship with interim boss Ralf Rangnick.
And just to put a tin lid on things, Rashford has also gone from England superstar to outcast, having failed to make Gareth Southgate's last two squads. But Rashford is said to be energised by Ten Hag's appointment and keen to win back his place in the team. He still sees his future at Old Trafford.
He will travel to America next month to undergo some intense warm-weather training in a bid to hit the ground running when the United squad returns for pre-season testing on June 27. Rashford is also motivated by the fact a World Cup begins in six months' time and he wants to be on the plane to Qatar with the rest of Southgate's squad.
Can Ten Hag get Rashford firing again? Join the debate in the comments section below
This might just prove to be some rare light in an otherwise long, dark tunnel Ten Hag is about to head into. Perhaps Rashford's problems have been in his head more than his feet, but if Ten Hag can get such a gifted forward firing again it will be like signing a new player for free.
We all know what a wonderful talent Rashford is, but Ten Hag could do worse than sit down with him and tell him to spend the next 12 months focusing on his football instead of his countless commitments outside the game. Because if Rashford can get back to his best, he is someone Ten Hag can build his new team around.
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