Former Manchester United striker Andy Cole believes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to make Marcus Rashford the nucleus of his side and build the team around him for years to come.
Rashford, 21, scored the opening goal of Solskjaer’s permanent tenure in the United dugout during the 2-1 win over Watford on Saturday.
Should Solskjaer build around Rashford? Five key things to know…
- Since making his debut in February 2016, Rashford has amassed 162 appearances.
- In that time the England international has scored 45 goals and registered 26 assists.
- Prior to Solskjaer’s arrival, Rashford had only scored four goals in all competitions but has bagged nine since.
- The 21-year-old has netted double figures in the Premier League for the first time in his career.
- And Cole now believes Solskjaer has to make Rashford the focal point of his side.
Three points keeps United firmly in the race for a top four finish, with the club currently occupying fifth position but level on points with fourth-placed Spurs.
A Champions League qualification spot looked beyond the realms of possibility when Solskjaer took the helm in December, but the Norwegian has overseen a complete transformation in fortunes.
Rashford has been central to that upturn, with the England international netting nine goals since Solskjaer’s initial interim appointment, and now Cole – who made nearly 300 appearances for United – has urged his former teammate to build the team around the young forward.
“Rashford has got all of the ability in the world but you could tell his confidence was waning under the previous manager, it was getting lower and lower,” he told Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.
“Ole has gone in there and said to him ‘we all know how good you are, just believe in yourself’, and he’s done that.
“When Rashford first came into the team we all knew what he could do. He kind of went away from that a little but now he’s back doing what he’s good at.”
Asked if Solskjaer should build future teams around Rashford, Cole added: “He’s a baby, of course you can.
“He came out the other day and said he was prepared to sign a new contract, so he’s telling everyone he wants to stay not only for the short haul but the long haul.
“You’ve got to build your team around the local boys, I was fortunate to do that in my time at Manchester United. Rashford will be one of the mainstays at the football club.”
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“Ole is a Manchester United man” – Cole
Cole went on to sing Solskjaer’s praises. The pair played alongside one another during a trophy-laden five years, famously winning the treble in 1998/99.
The 47-year-old is encouraged by the approach Solskjaer has taken and believes the club can now move forward because he is a United fan through and through.
“I’m buzzing for Ole,” he said. “Since he’s come in he’s been fantastic, he got the results he’s needed and got the players playing, which is the most important thing.
“He’s already achieved this season, coming in the way he did and dealing with things the way he has. Everyone is talking about Manchester United finishing in the top four, no one was talking about that in December. That speaks volumes.
“The job is going to be very tough, just as it has since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. But Ole is a Manchester United man, that’s really important. He understands the players, the club’s ethos. Fingers crossed for next season.”
Next up for United is a Premier League trip to Wolves on Tuesday night.