Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial on path to stardom but one has more secure Man United future

Aditya Devavrat 22:54 22/04/2019
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Are Rashford and Martial still on the path to superstardom?

With Manchester United set for a second straight season without silverware, all signs point to a big summer overhaul from newly-installed manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Norwegian has spoken of the investment it will take to rebuild the squad so that it bridges the gap to clubs like Barcelona, who dumped United out of the Champions League this week.

While part of the rebuild will involve bringing in new players, Solskjaer and the rest of the club hierarchy will need to make cold, ruthless decisions about the ones already at the club.

Here, we look at how likely the current strikers at United are to remain at Old Trafford beyond this summer. Check out our analysis of the club’s goalkeepers, defenders, and midfielders as well.

Marcus Rashford

The only thing that could see Marcus Rashford leave his boyhood club is if the potential impasse during contract negotiations becomes reality. Rashford is reportedly seeking a new deal worth £200,000 per week, a wage United may feel the player hasn’t quite earned yet.

And whatever happens they are in the market for forward options this summer, which could see Rashford’s playing time reduced. His composure and finishing remain issues but, at 21, he still has time to iron those out, and Solskjaer admires the young Englishman. His combination of talent and determination should help him remain a fixture at United for the years to come.

Likelihood of staying: 10/10

Anthony Martial

Between Rashford and Anthony Martial, the Frenchman is arguably the more talented player. There’s a reason United agreed to a Ballon d’Or clause in his transfer when making him the then-most expensive teenager in history upon signing him from Monaco in 2015.

Yet there’s also a feeling that Rashford applies himself better and has less of a tendency to go missing in games. The impression that he is permanently sulking, like a new-age Nicolas Anelka, doesn’t help, though even the original Le Sulk ended up being an excellent striker. If Martial can focus on harnessing his potential in a similar way, United will reap the benefits.

Likelihood of staying: 8/10

Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez’s gravest sin as a United player may not be his failure to have any lasting impact, as injuries and a decline in form have reduced him to a frustrating, ineffective footballer. No, the bigger concern is the wages he’s on, which depending on reports are anything between £350,000 and £400,000 per week.

He is United’s highest-paid player by far, which makes negotiations almost impossible with those of his team-mates, like David De Gea and Paul Pogba, who think that status should reside with them. What that means is even if Sanchez does find form, and that already looks like a huge if, he still would be the player who blew up United’s wage structure and made every player demand more money  – perhaps more than United could afford.

Compounding the issue, the Chilean’s wages also make him difficult to sell. And in any case, he’s a 30-year-old who looks like his best form is behind him, which might deter suitors. United will no doubt be trying to cut their losses this summer.

Likelihood of staying: 4/10

Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku had the best season of his career in his debut campaign at United, then went to the World Cup and was one of Belgium’s most important players, and then got struck by second-season syndrome at the club. He’s had two separate runs of six games without a goal, another eight-game goalless streak, and currently hasn’t scored in his last five.

When Solskjaer replaced Mourinho he instantly returned the club to playing with traditional pace and incision and Lukaku – who’d bulked up over the summer – simply looked too clunky and static. He has slimmed down in the last few months and shown flashes of the powerful, pacey and prodigious finisher from his Everton days, but he’s just so streaky, that you wonder whether he can really become an iconic United striker.

On the face of it, 15 goals and three assists isn’t an awful campaign, and there’s still the possibility that he ends this season having topped 20 goals for the second straight campaign.

But whether he fits into Solskjaer’s hard-working, high-pressing, quick-breaking style remains to be seen, and Lukaku himself has hinted at an exit, though not necessarily an immediate one. United are also being linked with other strikers.

Likelihood of staying: 6/10

Jesse Lingard

It’s still hard to know what to make of Lingard. At times there are flashes of real quality, with his movement, ability to press, and penchant for a flashy finish. Not to mention his clear love for the club, his local ties, fun personality and status as the club’s ultimate wind-up merchant, all of which make him a fan favourite.

But compared to the best players at his position, Lingard falls short. He doesn’t produce consistently enough and has a tendency to drift in and out of games. He’s 26, which means in theory he’s about to hit his prime – but there is a sense that the current version of Lingard is the best he’ll ever be.

And if he’s already hit his ceiling, then he’s at best a squad player, not someone who should be starting every week for a side chasing major honours. There’s no danger of a summer exit, but United need an upgrade at his position.

Likelihood of staying: 10/10

Juan Mata

That the man who arrived as a club-record signing is likely to leave on a free transfer shows how poorly United have managed their transfers and contracts in the last six seasons.

Never fleet of foot, the diminutive Spaniard has always relied on his sharpness of thought throughout his career. But even the 30-year-old’s brain seems to have slowed this season as games tend to pass him by all too often. It’s a shame because he’s a great role model for United on and off the pitch and has scored more than his fair share of crucial goals – 44 in 216 games for United.

In truth Mata never seemed like a natural fit at the club and though he has done his best to adapt, and endeared himself to the fans, these are set to be his last months at the club until his post-playing career, when United reportedly have him lined up as a club ambassador.

Likelihood of staying: 1/10

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