Cristiano Ronaldo exit did NOT spark Marcus Rashford's Man Utd revival, insists Andy Cole

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Marcus Rashford Cristiano Ronaldo
Andy Cole has insisted that Cristiano Ronaldo's Manchester United departure was not a key factor in Marcus Rashford's return to form.
  • Ronaldo left United in November
  • Rashford firing on all cylinders
  • Cole credits Ten Hag for his resurgence

WHAT HAPPENED? The Red Devils have thrived since the departure of the Portuguese striker in November, with Rashford leading their assault on four different trophy fronts. The England international scored in Sunday's 2-0 Carabao Cup final win over Newcastle United, which took his tally to 25 club goals across all competitions, the best return in a single campaign in his United career. 17 of those strikes have come since his return from the World Cup break, six more than Napoli's Victor Osimhen, who is second-placed in the rankings from the top-five European leagues. Given his resurgence in form coinciding with Ronaldo's exit, many believe that the latter's absence has helped Rashford to express himself more freely in the final third. However, Cole, a member of United's treble-winning squad of 1999, does not think Ronaldo was holding Rashford back, and has instead credited Erik ten Hag for his ascent to a new level.

WHAT THEY SAID: The former United forward told Stats Perform: "I'm an individual. I'm not going to get involved in the Ronaldo thing because he left. Ronaldo wasn't there 18 months ago when Marcus Rashford was struggling. I'm an individual. I'm not going to get involved in the Ronaldo thing because he left. Ronaldo wasn't there 18 months ago when Marcus Rashford was struggling.

"The [Erik] Ten Hag effect, I think. No doubt, the manager will be believing in him, telling him how good he is. But ultimately, as individuals, he could have taken his eye off the ball a little bit with what he was doing off the field. It could have been a little bit of that as well, but to see him in this really fit form now, the way he's playing, I think it's a testament to him. For me, personally, it doesn't really matter what anyone else does with you. I'm looking at him now, he seems to be telling himself, 'I'm at that level that I want to be at'. That's why he's playing so well."

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: Although Cole is thrilled to see Rashford excel, he is concerned with the lack of depth in United's squad. Bruno Fernandes comes a distant second in their top scorers list with just seven goals to his name, and Cole thinks Rashford is shouldering too much responsibility: "Do we need that depth? Of course we do, if we look at all the top teams in Europe, they have that depth," he added. "And yeah, I would say if [Rashford] did pick up an injury, which naturally I don't want, you're going to turn around say, 'where are the goals going to come from?' Because they're not really being spread around the team. Marcus has got a majority of them. Yeah, you might get sporadic [contributions]: Antony might get one in four games or whatever; Casemiro scored [on Sunday]; [Jadon] Sancho is getting himself back and is getting a goal every now and then. But if you're going to be challenging for major honours, you've got to have goals coming from all areas, and at this moment time Manchester United are relying on Marcus because he's in that form. No doubt they'll look to address that problem [a lack of goals elsewhere] in the summer."


Marcus Rashford Manchester United Carabao Cup final 2023

Marcus Rashford Manchester United 2022-23

Ronaldo Rashford Ten Hag

DID YOU KNOW? Manchester United have scored 43 goals since the World Cup, more than any other side in Europe's major leagues.

WHAT NEXT FOR RASHFORD? The forward will be looking to hit the back of the net once again when United host West Ham in the FA Cup on Wednesday.