After Manchester United‘s Carabao Cup victory against Burton Albion, pundit Phil Neville made a quite sensational claim.
Speaking about Marcus Rashford, who scored two goals on the night, Neville said: “Everybody praises Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe but nobody talks about Rashford in this country. Because he’s English we just say ‘he plays on the left wing, he’s OK’.”
Neville continued: “he is up there with Dembélé and Mbappé, who also play on either wing. […] Rashford is in the same bracket as those two – £100m-£150m players – he is every bit as good as those two and can be in the future because he is improving every season.”
Rashford was superb against Burton, for sure, but with the greatest of respect it was just Burton. So comparison to two of football’s hottest young prospects could appear to be jumping the gun, but the praise of Rashford is built on so much more than just this one game. And whilst Dembélé and Mbappé were lionised for their achievements, Neville has a point that Rashford isn’t put in the same bracket.
Should he be, though? Should Marcus Rashford be considered a prospect with the same ceiling as the two French marvels? Squawka investigates!
Whatever you think of Neville’s claim, part of the reason he selected those two players is that there is definitely some stylistic similarity to Marcus Rashford. All three are youngsters who possess a lean frame and are terrifyingly fast. Further similarities can be drawn between Rashford and Mbappé, who are both strikers that are able to play in the wide areas (Ousmane Dembélé is more of a natural winger).
In another point of similarity, Rashford and Mbappé both possess a disarming dribbling skill, in that you wouldn’t expect them to have the confidence and ability to run circles around an opponent with the ball at their feet but they are more than capable of doing so. So whilst their reputations may be vastly different, there is adequate scope to compare them.
Of the trio, only Rashford and Mbappé are natural goalscorers. That’s not to say Dembélé is goal-shy, but as a natural winger his skills lie elsewhere. Since the 2015/16 season when Dembélé and Rashford broke through, looking at just league and Champions League, the three youngsters have clocked up double figures. Rashford has scored 17 goals, Dembélé 20 whilst Mbappé, the player with the least amount of minutes, has the highest number of goals with 25.
Looking at the numbers per-90 minutes and Mbappé’s unreal achievements become clear; he has 0.56 goals per-90 minutes since debut, whilst Dembélé has an impressive 0.46 and Rashford is bottom with 0.39. But in Rashford’s defence, he did spend a season playing under Mourinho.
In more good news for Mbappé, he has by far the best shot conversion. Scoring with 33% of his shots on goal, whilst Rashford does so 22% of the time and Dembélé only 20% of the time. It’s clear Mbappé has been the most effective and ruthless striker so far; but when you consider the calibre of opponent the Englishman has scored against, Rashford makes a compelling case that, were he to play up-front like Mbappé, he could do similar.
Rashford and Mbappé both have the ability to play wide but neither is truly a winger. Their speed and work-ethic allow them to play as wing-forwards but their emphasis is certainly on goalscoring. When it comes to creativity, Ousmane Dembélé is streets ahead.
The Barcelona man has created a whopping 2.94 chances per-90 minutes since his debut, far ahead of Mbappé’s 1.11 and Rashford’s 1.09. Those chances have led to assists for 0.56 assists per-90 for Dembélé whilst Mbappé has just under half that with 0.25 and Rashford is further behind on 0.14. Dembélé is a sublime creative force and streets ahead here.
As mentioned above, Rashford and Mbappé have a disarming dribbling skill. Mbappé has completed 1.62 take-ons per-90 minutes since his debut, whilst Rashford nudges ahead here with 1.90 completed. The two of them can baffle opponents with audacious moments of awesomeness, but Dembélé?
Dembélé is on another planet. The Frenchman has completed an incredible 240 take-ons since his debut in 2015/16. That works out at a whopping 5.68 take-ons won per-90. When he has the ball at his feet, magic happens and he is far far beyond Rashford and Mbappé in this regard.
Big Match Impact
Part of the reason these three have stood out amongst all others is because they are kings on the big stage. They step up when the spotlight is brightest. From Dembélé scoring in the DFB-Pokal for Borussia Dortmund to Rashford scoring against Manchester City on his derby debut (or against Celta Vigo in the Europa League semi-final) to Kylian Mbappé’s Champions Leagues heroics.
It’s clear that they’re all great here, but Mbappé doing the business so thoroughly in the Champions League, scoring in his first four knockout games in a row, has to be the greatest. The greatest stage of all and this 18-year-old made it look like a Saturday stroll in the park with his mates.
Marcus Rashford is a wonderful talent, but he’s not as good a goalscorer as Kylian Mbappé, nor is he anywhere near to Ousmane Dembélé as a creator. That’s not about price; obviously he’ll never move for that amount of money because unlike them, he started at a big club whereas they had to join one. And while there’s something to be said for being 18 years old and able to cope with the pressure of playing for Manchester United, it’s not enough to offset the difference in production.
Rashford is a promising player, a superb youngster whose talent should be encouraged and nourished by Manchester United and England. He’s established himself as a first-team regular at Old Trafford and given that he’s still a teenager and playing for José Mourinho, that’s pretty incredible. But he can’t quite compare to the two fabulous young Frenchman.
So, sorry Phil Neville, but Ousmane Dembélé and Kylian Mbappé are ahead of Marvellous Marcus as we stand. Dembele’s injury will see his progress stall for the moment.