Is Benni McCarthy the person responsible for Marcus Rashford’s remarkable transformation at Manchester United this season?
Rashford continued his impressive goalscoring run by netting the opener against Leeds United at Elland Road on Sunday.
The 25-year-old scored a superb 80th-minute header to finally break the deadlock. Substitute Alejandro Garnacho then found the net shortly afterwards to ensure all three points for the Red Devils.
Rashford lost his confidence last season and there were times when some doubted whether we’d ever see the England international back to his lethal best.
Marcus Rashford is proving his doubters wrong
But a goal against rivals Liverpool in August kickstarted his season – and Erik ten Hag’s Man United tenure.
Fast-forward six months and Rashford is now arguably Europe’s most in-form player.
Only Erling Haaland, Harry Kane and Ivan Toney have scored more Premier League goals than Rashford (12) so far this term.
“He is definitely one of them,” Ten Hag replied, per United’s official website, when asked if Rashford is currently among the best forwards in Europe.
“I was convinced [by him] from the first moment. I was really excited to work with him. I thought I could get more out of him.
“He has so many skills, such high potential, and I think that can be even more. When he works well, he will score even more goals because he can score with his right, his left, and with his head.”
Is Benni McCarthy responsible for Rashford’s transformation?
While Ten Hag deserves huge praise for Rashford’s resurgence, it’s another coach at Old Trafford who’s currently being praised by fans on social media.
Former South African striker Benni McCarthy, best remembered for his spells with FC Porto and Blackburn Rovers, joined Ten Hag’s backroom team as a first-team coach last summer.
And the 45-year-old’s close work with Rashford on the training ground is clearly paying dividends.
Marcus Rashford this season has scored more headed goals in the Premier League (3), than any other season in his Manchester United career.
Remember that clip of Benni McCarthy giving Rashford one-on-one heading drills? It’s paying off.
The Benni McCarthy effect.❤️ pic.twitter.com/vUaRGhCedz
— UF (@UtdFaithfuls) February 12, 2023
Benni McCarthy appreciation tweet. 🙌🔴 pic.twitter.com/Ju3XlIfc2x
— Paul, Manc Bald and Bred (@MufcWonItAll) February 12, 2023
What have Man Utd players said about Benni McCarthy?
During an interview with Sky Sports earlier this season, per the Manchester Evening News, Rashford was asked what he thought of McCarthy’s impact.
“He’s definitely helped me a lot,” the forward said. “To have them attack-minded coaches is good for us in the squad, he’s always there speaking to us about these things.”
Bruno Fernandes also hailed McCarthy, telling reporters: “He is a really funny person, he’s always positive, he has good energy in the dressing room and training ground… He was quality as a player and is quality as a manager because we do many drills from finishing, headers many stuff that he was really doing when he was playing and it can help us score some goals.”
And Ten Hag said of his colleague last month: “He is offensive [minded] as he is a former striker and that is also a really specific job task in the team. I never played there, so I’m [always] lucky to have someone in my staff who played there.
“Football is about scoring and you have a goalkeeping specialist, but you also have offensive specialists and in particular we have a specific scoring trainer. He has to add that, in details, working and for the rest of us he has a relationship to all the players in our squad. He also has to work on the togetherness and he is doing a great job on that.”
Ten Hag on bringing in Benni McCarthy: “I wanted also to find a good balance. He is offensive [minded] as he is a former striker and that is also a really specific task in the team. I never played there, so I’m [always] lucky to have someone in my staff who played there.” [mu]
— utdreport (@utdreport) January 18, 2023
What did Ian Wright say about Benni McCarthy?
Premier League legend Ian Wright, speaking on Match of the Day 2 after Man Utd’s victory away at Leeds, paid tribute to McCarthy’s impact on Rashford.
“I think the acquisition of Benni McCarthy, a striker coach, has helped him.
“When you look at the movement for that goal – like Harry Maguire talking about how his heading has improved – it was brilliant.
“And that says to me that someone like Benni McCarthy’s working very closely with him. He’s improved no end.”
Watch the clip here:
It seems that bringing McCarthy into the fold may have been one of the smartest decisions that Ten Hag has made as Man Utd manager so far.
And it may well have been the appointment that saved Rashford’s United career.