It is not a coincidence that Marcus Rashford has scored twelve goals for club and country since the international break back in October. The 22-year-old has only played two games as a centre-forward over the past two months, with the majority of his minutes having been played off the left flank.
There is a stark contrast in his statistics when he has played in the two positions this season. Let’s have a look at five significant numbers that demonstrate the huge difference in his performances:
1) Rashford averages 3.62 shots per match when playing on the left, while he manages just 2.49 when he is utilised through the middle of the pitch. His ability to cut in from the left-hand side and shoot plays an important part in that.
As we saw against Tottenham last night, with his goal, and his subsequent shots, he is very dangerous from that left flank. When he plays centrally, he often gets trapped too deep and can’t get in positions to shoot.
2) Rashford averages 7.54 dribbles per 90 minutes as a left-sided forward compared to just 4.41 as a striker. Winning the penalty against Spurs was a perfect demonstration of how the United ace can use his dribbling ability to devastating effect when one-on-one on the flanks with opposing defenders.
3) His expected assists (xA) is double when playing from the left-hand side, 0.21 per 90 compared to 0.13 as a striker. That may not seem like a significant number, but if you average that out over a 38 game Premier League season, Rashford would be predicted to provide eight assists from out wide and just 5 from a central position. It shows he is more able to get involved with the build-up play.
4) The United striker averages 72.27 actions per match out wide compared to 50.77 actions as a striker. He is simply more involved when playing on the left flank, despite the fact that you are generally likelier to get the ball when positioned in a centre of the pitch.
5) Of course, the most important stat for a forward is goals, and there is no comparison this season between Rashford’s two starting positions. Just four of his 15 goals for both club and country this campaign have come when he has played in the middle.
Going forward, then, it seems clear that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should persist with playing Rashford out wide, even if other players like Anthony Martial are injured.