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Analysing Benni McCarthy’s impact on Marcus Rashford’s Manchester United renaissance

11:04 PM MYT 15/01/2023
Marcus Rashford and Benni McCarthy, Manchester United
Benni McCarthy has been hailed by South African supporters as the reason behind Marcus Rashford’s upturn in fortunes, but what has his impact been?

Manchester United fans—at least those in South Africa—were quick to heap praise on Benni McCarthy on Saturday, in the aftermath of the Red Devils’ derby victory over Manchester City.

Marcus Rashford was at the heart of a stirring second-half comeback by United as they bounced back from Jack Grealish’s opener to secure arguably the biggest win of Erik ten Hag’s tenure so far.

The England striker was influential in the victory, netting the winner himself having earlier played a key part—albeit controversially—in Bruno Fernandes’ equaliser for the hosts.

The star showing was the latest outstanding display from Rashford as he continues to silence those many voices who questioned whether he’d ever truly be good enough for the Red Devils.

As far as South African supporters on social media are concerned, McCarthy has been one of the key reasons why Rashford has turned things around, with the striker’s improvement coinciding directly with the arrival of Bafana Bafana’s all-time top scorer at Old Trafford during the summer.

McCarthy was appointed by United in July, brought in from the wilderness of South African football as the arriving Ten Hag sought coaching expertise to improve his players’ striking output.

Obviously, things with Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t go to plan, but partly that’s been because of the improvement Rashford has undergone in recent months.

In netting against City on Saturday, the England striker became the first United player since Ronaldo in April 2008 to score in seven consecutive appearances for the Red Devils.

Not only is it the best spell of the player’s career, it’s also the best run of any United player in the last 15 years, with Rashford scoring eight goals during that run.

He’s been particularly lethal at Old Trafford, where the problems of confidence that once affected Rashford in front of his own fans have evaporated this term.

Not since Teddy Sheringham in November 2000 has a player scored in nine successive matches at Old Trafford, with Rashford never showing anything like this level of form since before McCarthy’s arrival in the North West.

This week, ex-United left-back Patrice Evra directly name-checking McCarthy in connection with Rashford’s upturn in fortunes.

“We need to give credit to Benni McCarthy, he's responsible for all the forward players and you can see he is doing a good job,” Evra told Betfair. “Maybe he is the one saying to Marcus that he needs to score more goals and be a killer.

“So, I think what United are doing with Marcus is good work because I see someone happy. That is the key. It's the biggest difference I see in Marcus, now he is smiling.”

“Before, when he scored a goal, you could see he was angry and upset with something, now he is happy. A happy Marcus Rashford is dangerous. He's electric.”

Rashford himself has praised the ex-Blackburn Rovers frontman for helping him finally silence those who doubted he could be United’s leading man.

“He's definitely helped me a lot,” Rashford told Sky Sports in November. “To have those attack-minded coaches in the squad is huge for us forward players. It's just day-in day-out that we are thinking about scoring goals rather than the other bits of the game, which are important as well.

“We've got him always there speaking to us.”

McCarthy, now 45, is revered in South Africa for his goalscoring both for the national side and for domestic giants Orlando Pirates.

He also enjoyed magnificent goalscoring form at Ajax and FC Porto, winning the Champions League with the latter, before making his move to the English game.

Indeed, in the 2006-07 season with Blackburn Rovers, McCarthy’s haul of 18 goals was better than Rashford has ever managed in a Premier League season.

It would be too much to suggest that the Bafana great has ‘saved’ Rashford’s career, but it is worth noting that the striker is already up to eight league goals so far this term—already double his entire return of last season.

Based on his recent form, Rashford should comfortably hit double figures in the league for only the fourth time in his career, while also proving that he can be the man to lead United’s revolution under Ten Hag.