Marcus Rashford’s Resurgence: What explains his return to form?

Ten Hag’s tactics, new signings, and individual improvements

February 8, 2023


After a tumultuous start to the season, Marcus Rashford's form is finally back on track. The Manchester United player has been in the form of his life, scoring crucial goals and leading his team to victory. Fans and analysts alike are praising his renewed confidence and determination on the field. With his impressive performances, Rashford is proving to be a major force to be reckoned with and is cementing his status as one of the top players in the league. With the season heating up, the return of Rashford's form couldn't have come at a better time for Manchester United and their fans.

There is no coincidence that the return of Rashford’s form and hitting even higher levels is in part due to Erik ten Hag. The Dutch manager’s emphasis on attacking football and using possession as a tool has benefitted Marcus Rashford’s goal output and performances in general. The role Rashford plays down the left, his movement in key offensive areas, and his consistent improvement with scanning are all attributes we can see as areas leading to his explosive form. 

Let’s take a look in more detail.

How ten Hag’s structure/style benefits him

Erik ten Hag has brought an exciting style to Manchester United. A player like Marcus Rashford has benefited greatly from. Ten Hag has implemented an attractive 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 to this Manchester United side using possession as a tool to progress and create dangerous chances. The movement and areas Man Utd look to progress through and create chances from centre around the half spaces.

Image of the half spaces

This is directly beneficial for the fluid formation ten Hag implements. In the new Manchester United manager’s system the wide structures within his team are crucial for moving and creating advantages around these spaces. The wide structures Rashford is involved in typically includes Christian Eriksen and Luke Shaw/Malacia whose qualities directly benefit Rashford. With Luke Shaw and Malacia, Rashford has willing runners who can overlap him to pin a full back allowing him to cut in with his right foot or underlap him to affect central midfielders to clear an inside route for Rashford.

In this video we see how Ten Haag used his wide players at Ajax so well, holding the inside to pin defensive players, creating width for his wingers

And here at United, we see how Shaw’s presence on the inside helps to create space for Rashford and then to find a dangerous pass through

These movements are all amplified when you have Christian Eriksen able to drop deeper to provide service to these movements or play higher between the lines combining with Rashford’s off the ball movement. 

Video of Eriksen supporting down the left channel

Image of how Rashford links up down the line

New Signings and Improved Form

This season ten Hag’s style has not just benefitted Marcus Rashford, but also players like Luke Shaw, Christian Eriksen, and others. Manchester United’s activity in the transfer window has also been deliberate and precise. Both these reasons have been contributing factors to Rashord’s success this season. First, new signings such as Martinez and Casemiro have improved Manchester United in possession drastically. By having Martinez in build up they have a player comfortable in possession and left footed making it more natural for him to play into dangerous areas on the left side.

Casemiro covering in midfield, making crucial tackles to progress the team forward

This added distribution at the back is complemented with Casemiro as the anchor in midfield. Casemiro’s stability allows players like Eriksen and Fernandes to get on the ball more. The threat these two possess to play the final pass and find Rashford in dangerous areas is crucial to his success.

Martinez plays a left footed pass into Rashford vs Palace

The newest signing to aid Rashford’s continual form is the signing of Weghorst. Having a ST who has the qualities of a more traditional number 9 could be very good for Rashford. Weghorst isn’t the most mobile, but his presence gives him the ability to pin CBs creating space between the lines when Rashford cuts into dangerous areas.

Width and Isolation

Rashford creates height and width on the left side while United create an overload on the right. Rashford is also in close proximity to a more narrow Malacia and Eriksen.

Rashford is at his best when he starts on the left, usually creating width and height. He is a very good player to implement concepts like overload and isolate. His ability to run with the ball at speed while staying balanced allows him to thrive in open space and 1v1 situations. Even when he is creating height and width, but not situations using overload and isolate he still creates problems for the defence. These situations often come when attacking a low block. Erik ten Hag’s teams look to use possession as a tool to create chances meaning they are more likely to come up against deeper defending teams.

An example of the concept of overload and isolate. Rashford can thrive in these situations in space on the far side to run with the ball and cut in or go down the line.

When Rashford takes up these wide positions he can see the whole field and be very goal oriented with his actions, especially when he cuts in on his right foot. He and his Manchester United teammates often put the opponents in lose lose situations. When Rashford is out wide he often finds the ball because of the attacking presence United have between the lines. Then, once the ball is out to Rashford, the opposing full back and supporting midfielders have to make decisions on how to deal with Rashford running with the ball, as well as being aware of overlapping and underlapping runs & quick combinations Rashford can produce with teammates like Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen.

Malacia with the ball and Rashford out wide with space to go into the box forward or cut in directly horizontally with Malacia supporting ready to overlap or underlap Rashford will have the time to make a goal oriented action.

Playing between the lines

Probably the most improved area of Rashford’s game is his ability to play between the lines. This is likely due to how ten Hag defines this role for Rashford. Of course Rashford won’t operate the same way between the lines as Bruno does. Rashford has unique qualities that get magnified when he does find himself in these positions. 

When Rashford takes up a more narrow position he usually does so with threat in behind rather than getting on the ball between the lines as Fernandes or Eriksen might

There can be many factors on why Rashford has had so much success in these situations this season, but the tactical element ten Hag has instilled in his team certainly doesn’t hurt. The Manchester United manager sets the team up where there is always occupation between the lines in the half space especially on Rashford’s side. Rashford usually takes up a higher position closer to the defensive line when he is narrow in the half space. Often his partnered LB will be holding the width for the team. In these positions he can prepare for the ball to go into players and areas where it will break the last line of defence. 

Rashford narrow with his partner overlapping looking affect the defence and then target the space in behind the full back

Rashford will take advantage of the defenders’ tendencies to watch the ball and perform his goal oriented movement when he is in their blindspot. There are times when Rashford drops towards the ball in a deeper position in the half space. This is usually when he has started from a more advanced position and a defender may follow him creating space in behind. Rashford can create this space for himself or his teammates. The Manchester United player can after spin off an overcommitted defender and get in behind the stranded defender or the team can work the ball into this space via a different route allowing Marcus Rashford to make a curved run into the box. 

Rashford going to the ball attracting the full back to create space to target in behind the full back

Rashford narrow positioning allows him to run off the other attacking players and find space when entering the box

Rashford playing in line with the opponents defence and playing just off their shoulder to exploit space in behind or in front of the defence while moving in the defenders blind spot

Movement in Goal Scoring Areas

What has captured the most attention with Marcus Rashford this season is his final product. Rashford’s sharpness with dismarking tools such as double movements, blindside movements, and his timing in key areas combined with his physical attributes makes him almost unstoppable at times. 

When Rashford plays in central areas looking to make his final movement before he arrives in the penalty area, double movements are a common tool he uses. He makes his initial movement usually away from the ball to move the defender and then makes a quick change of direction to arrive in the best goal scoring position (usually in the front half of goal just outside the 6 yard area).

moving away from the ball first

Attacking dangerous areas to get into a goal scoring position

Blindside movements have been another essential tool for Rashford’s goal scoring form. The way Rashford knows how to exploit the defenders’ orientations towards the ball leaving them struggling to mark him has been really impressive. This goes directly with the timing he possesses to exploit defenders. When he moves into the blindside of the defenders he usually delays his run allowing for the space to open up before he makes his final movement. This works really well from crossing positions when Rashford looks to use his head to finish chances and when he plays between CBs or defenders with space to run into usually during transitions.

Rashford playing between CBs holding his run while his teammates move defenders allowing him to take advantage of the space left in the back line

Rashford is off the shoulder of the 1st CB allowing him to move through the centre unmarked by the ball side CB.

Starting in the blindside of the far CB. When the CB looks at Rashford he speeds up his run to attract the CB into a deeper more narrow position

When the CB looks away Rashford exploits the space by holding his run, timing it well, and exploiting the blindside of the defender.

Rashford playing at the back post holding his run and staying in the defenders blindspot as long as possible.

At the last second Rashford times his run from the blind spot to cut across the defender and score.


Rashford scanning from a central position playing narrow looking at the back line and seeing if there are any opportunities to break the lines while the ball circulates.

Scanning is often a hard skill to track & train, making it easy to overlook. For a player like Marcus Rashford as well, who plays on the wing, it may not be associated with the same significance as a player like Xavi for instance. Nonetheless scanning is crucial to Rashford’s game and is something he has improved drastically this season.

Playing out wide vs playing narrow often requires a player to scan in different ways. When Rashford is out wide receiving the ball he often is looking at the 10 metres in front of him, interpreting his opponents body position and looking goal bound to create a scoring chance. 

But when he plays in a more narrow position he is in a position where the 360 degrees around him is just as important as the space in front of him because he isn’t against the sideline, limiting the available space for him to perceive. 

Ball is traveling to a teammates Rashford uses this moment to scan for teammates and the space around him.

Key times for Rashford and any player to scan is when the ball is travelling (whether it is travelling towards Rashford or not). When the ball is travelling between players, especially on the ground, the ball will not change its course, making it a key team for players to scan, gather information, and see how the defence is responding.

Rashford critical scan in a central area with good body shape to go forward with a lowered centred of gravity promoting a fast change of direction with the action.

Rashford coming off the wide area looking across the defensive line and perceiving the space to enter recognizing no one is filling this dangerous area.

Playing between the lines looking at the defenders around him and his teammate out wide. First seeing if a defender may jump and next interpreting the availability of his teammate out wide.

Dropping deeper towards the ball and scanning the defenders again to see if they will follow him or get pinned by the wide area. Also, one dismarking technique and false reception can be when a player scans in the opposite way they will receive the ball. Defenders can use this non verbal as a reference point on how they will defend. Rashford does that here receiving this ball towards the centre rather than the direction he scan

A reminder that if you want to train your scanning, that’s exactly what we specialise here at Be Your Best. You can learn more by visiting our home page and seeing how you can improve today


Marcus Rashford's return to form is a welcome development for Manchester United and their fans. After a difficult start to the season, the young striker has regained his confidence and is once again proving to be a major threat on the field. His hard work and determination have paid off, and he is now scoring crucial goals and leading his team to victory. 

It's worth noting that Rashford's return to form is not a one-off, but rather a sign of things to come. He is a young player with a lot of potential, and as he continues to develop and refine his skills, we can expect even better performances from him in the future.

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