Marcus Rashford has scored more headed goals in the Premier League this season than any other during his Manchester United career. Coincidence? I think not.
The arrival of a new manager has, of course, played a part in Rashford’s form. On his first day as manager, Erik ten Hag told Rashford that he wanted to see him “smiling every day” after a lacklustre 2021/22 campaign. Since then, he has done exactly that.
But the appointment of another coach has been pivotal to the 25-year-old’s confidence in front of goal. Back in November, Rashford credited former South Africa international Benni McCarthy for playing an integral part in his impressive start to the 2022/23 campaign.
“He’s definitely helped me a lot,” Rashford said of his relationship with the former Blackburn forward.
“To have them attack-minded coaches is good for us in the squad, he’s always there speaking to us about these things.”
Erik ten Hag was desperate to bring a coach of McCarthy’s ilk to Carrington from the very beginning.
When discussing his arrival, the Dutch manager opened up about how critical McCarthy would be in his plans. “There was still one place in our coaching staff that I wanted to fill,” Ten Hag told United’s website. “He has experience as a manager. He was a coach in the professional level and he was a former striker, a really successful striker as well.
“He will focus on the positioning and attacking. I’m not saying only the strikers, but also the integration from the full-backs and midfielders. Our way of play has to be dynamic.”
As well as making over 100 appearances for Blackburn during a memorable four-year spell in England, McCarthy managed Cape Town City and Amazulu in South Africa’s top division. In fact, he was offered the South Africa national team job last year but turned it down.
Now, the 44-year-old is part of the technical team at United. He works with Ten Hag and his coaches to construct training sessions and often coordinates movement and finishing drills to make sure that the likes of Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho are sharp in front of goal.
Earlier this year, Ten Hag reserved special praise for McCarthy.
“[He’s] a former striker, that’s a really specific job in a team and I never played there (striker), so I’m lucky to have someone in my staff who did.
“He [McCarthy] has a good relationship with all the players in our squad. He also has to work on the togetherness and he is doing a great job in that.”
McCarthy, who was famed for his composure in front of goal during spells at Ajax, FC Porto and Blackburn, has also been credited for Rashford’s dramatic improvement in the heading department.
Rashford scored his fourth headed goal of the season against Leeds on Sunday afternoon as United secured all three points at Elland Road.
And fans were quick to comment on the impact of McCarthy’s coaching sessions.
One said: “Benni McCarthy up there with Casemiro and Martinez as United’s best signings this year: the work he’s done with Rashford on finishing, and Garnacho as well.”
A second wrote: “Benni McCarthy must have been teaching Marcus Rashford how to head a football.”
A third commented: “Naa we not just gonna ignore Benni McCarthy turning Marcus Rashford into an aerial firepower. He’s done miracles on him.”
Thoughts on McCarthy’s impact on the likes of Rashford in recent months?
Let us know in the comments.