MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) – Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said Marcus Rashford has the potential to be as good a centre-forward as England teammate Harry Kane as the pair prepare to face off in the Premier League tonight (12am Brunei time).
Rashford is expected to line up as the spearhead of United’s attack when they face Kane’s Tottenham at Wembley with both the team and striker on a hot run of form under the interim manager.
Rashford looks reborn under interim coach Solskjaer, scoring three times in the centre-forward position as United have rattled off four straight league wins since the Norwegian took over from the sacked Mourinho in December last year to close in on the Champions League places.
“He can become a top, top striker,” said Solskjaer. “We can talk about Harry Kane and his class and I’m sure Marcus as well. He’s got the potential to get up there.
“He’s got frightening pace, he’s now become stronger and can hold the ball up for us. He’s a great link player.”
Kane, 25, has set the goalscoring standards in English football over the past three years – he was the league’s top scorer in 2015/16 and 2016/17 before finishing runner-up to Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah last season.
He won the Golden Boot at last year’s World Cup and this season is joint-top scorer alongside Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on 14 goals.
Rashford, 21, scored four goals in his first two senior matches for United after being been given his debut by then-manager Louis van Gaal in February 2016, and established himself as a regular squad member at Old Trafford.
However, he was regularly restricted to substitute appearances after Jose Mourinho replaced Van Gaal as manager later that year, and was often asked to play in a left-sided role, with Romelu Lukaku as the central attacker.
Since returning to United, where he played as a striker between 1996 and 2007, Solskjaer has spoken repeatedly of the need to return to the attractive, attacking football that they played for much of Alex Ferguson’s reign.
A central part of Ferguson’s philosophy was the development of players from the club’s academy, which Rashford joined at the age of seven.
United have a proud history of producing their own talent, having included at least one youth-team graduate in every first-team matchday squad since October 1937.
Solskjaer sees Rashford’s academy background as valuable, suggesting the forward has learned from a young age about the attacking style traditionally associated with United.
“Marcus has been brought up here,” he said. “There were a couple of training sessions here (I watched) with the young kids, and Chongy (Tahith Chong) and Angel (Gomes) and him and Jesse, they played together in a certain way. He’s a very exciting player to work with.”
Solskjaer, loaned to United by Norwegian club Molde for the rest of this season, reiterated that there have been no discussions with United’s Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward over the permanent job despite his desire to take the hot seat.
“No, we’ve not had that conversation,” said Solskjaer. “You don’t plan five or six months ahead and then suddenly change that after two weeks. No, nothing’s changed. We just keep working every single day on improving the team here.
“I work with a fantastic coaching staff, I have to say. We’ll put a plan together on how we want to look the next few months.”