Saturday, May 6, 2017

Rashford or Zlatan?

As you can most likely tell from the title of this post I’m here to ask one question: should Jose Mourinho be choosing Marcus Rashford or Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front for Manchester United? And the answer to that is quite simple...neither. Fellaini should start up front on his own every week…

...of course I’m joking.

Since Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s cruciate ligament injury, which is expected to keep him sidelined for 8 months, Manchester United youngster Marcus Rashford has gotten his chance to ply his trade and boy has he grabbed it. So far Rashford has put in a solid performance against top four challengers Manchester City, won a penalty (albeit in dubious fashion) against Swansea and scored the winner in a Europa League tie against Celta Vigo.

Obviously these kinds of performances raise questions on whether The Red Devils should offer Ibrahimovic a new contract or let him go in the Summer, trusting Rashford to push on and become the striker he’s proving he can be. Both are top quality strikers and both can still play their part in the future of Manchester United.

But which is better? Well let’s look at each player and see what they bring.

Which would you prefer?
Ibrahimovic is a strong focal point, an intelligent target man with a amazing touch and a great range of passing. The big Swede has made an impressive 1.7 key passes per game in the Premier League this season, most of which have been done by holding up the ball and spring well timed passes in behind defences for midfield runners. Just standard stuff for any target man really.

Rashford on the other hand is a very different kind of striker. He is a raw and direct talent, putting defenders under constant stress with his pace, sheer workrate and his dribbling ability. A very unselfish runner, he likes to pull defenders out of position to open up space for his teammates and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

So by those descriptions you begin to get the sense that these two guys are very different strikers, Zlatan relying more on his strength and intelligence while Rashford is more inclined to use his pace and workrate. Despite this, both of these two have a lot of similarities on the pitch; both can create chances, both are extremely threatening goalscorers and both can lead the line in a partnership as well as on their own…

But which is better? Let’s look at weaknesses.

Again we start with Zlatan. I imagine a lot of United fans would say that the number 9 has no faults. He’s bigger than God. He’s Chuck Norris’ dad. He’s fucking Zlatan! But sadly those fans would be wrong. Every player has their faults and Zlatan’s is his work rate. Little commitment to close down defenders means that midfielders have to work harder to retrieve the ball. It may not be a huge issue but when you pay £89 million for a creative midfielder who's constantly feels a bit like a waste of money.

Another weak point of Ibrahimovic which I have to admit is quite debatable is his recklessness. On average he makes 1.9 fouls per game in the Premier League which is more than 60 year old nut case Diego Costa who makes 1.3 per game. A stat like that could get you a reputation in this league and could make Ibra a target for any questionable decisions.

Look at Zlatan's face. No one who has made that face has ever been innocent.
Now as for Rashford he is still relatively new to the scene, only beginning his Alex Hunter-esque journey last season. Despite this we can still pick some weaknesses in the young lads game, one of which being his strength. Now obviously for his 5ft11 frame you wouldn’t expect him to be out-muscling hulking centre half’s off the ball but it is still a weak point in his game. He’ll most likely improve with this as his body naturally develops.

One thing I don’t think he’ll improve on is his inability to compete with players in the air. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with my last point that he is too weak, and unless he’s gonna turn into Peter Crouch or Akinfenwa over night I doubt United’s number 19 will be beating many players to a header.
~ Side note: I’d also like to add that I was extremely disappointed in Rashford for diving against Swansea. Hopefully that kind of thing stops now otherwise it will have to go down as another weakness for the future England prospect ~

So these guys have some contrasting weaknesses which makes me ask again…who is better?...that’s the last time now I swear.

For me as gutting as it is to see Ibrahimovic get injured, I feel it will be a blessing in disguise for Manchester United. Granted the Swedish international has scored 28 goals this season in all competitions but the lack of goals from other squad members is a direct correlation to Zlatan playing. This season United have struggled to score goals as teams have quickly learnt that Zlatan pulls the strings.

If you tell a player to man mark Ibrahimovic and make sure he doesn’t play any passes in behind then you’ve more or less stopped Man United’s whole attacking threat. On the other hand Rashford would probably relish being man marked as he can pull that player all around the pitch, opening up space for the likes of Mkhitaryan, Lingard, Martial, Mata, Valencia and even Paul Pogba.

I think that without Zlatan in the side they will lose their 20+ goal a season striker but will see many more goals from midfield. This campaign Mata, Martial, Mkhitaryan and Pogba have managed to score a pretty poor 14 goals between them in the league. In my opinion they should be looking to match the likes of Hazard, Pedro and Willian for Chelsea (30 goals between them) or Alli, Eriksen and Son for Spurs (37 goals between them).

What do you guys think? Should these three be scoring more goals?
All in all though I think that Manchester United are incredibly lucky to have this strength in depth up front. It must be a real head scratcher for Mourinho to decide what player would suit his tactic this week. I think if he offers a new contract to Ibrahimovic in the Summer and begins rotating the two a little more next season, then he could have a proper old fashioned title challenging Manchester United side. But what do I know.

~ Anyone who enjoyed this please follow me on Twitter @ThePenaltyKing1 or like me on Facebook at ~

Cheers for reading.

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