Marcus Rashford is intent on a “fresh start” under Erik ten Hag, with the Manchester United forward saying his poor form last season was magnified by the team’s insipid campaign.
The 24-year-old scored only four Premier League goals and made two assists as United finished sixth. On occasion Rashford was visibly short of confidence, making elementary errors. Yet having spent the summer honing his physique and fitness before pre-season he is optimistic regarding playing under Ten Hag and believes the new manager has improved the squad’s conditioning.
“For me it is a fresh start, something I am looking forward to,” Rashford said. “The first two and a half weeks of training has been good. We have improved a lot. The team is a lot fitter than last season and we have a lot of room for improvement. I am in a good place right now – looking forward to getting more games under my belt and getting ready for the season.”
Rashford took advantage of being left out of England’s June internationals. “It has not been natural [usual] to have a long break – just under four weeks, a long break physical and mentally,” he said. “It is an opportunity to refresh. I am ready to go again. I have used the opportunity to do what I have always done and refocus. This is my first year I have been with the team since the beginning [of pre-season]. I feel a lot better than usual, when I go away with the nationals and come back partway through pre-season. It is important to get a fresh start. I feel fresh and ready.”
Of last term Rashford said: “It is a lot easier to make mistakes in a team that is winning. It is a lot easier to come back and improve when you make mistakes in a winning team. When you are losing it is difficult. We don’t like to lose.”
Rashford refused to cite the negativity surrounding the club as mitigation for his and the team’s performance.
“It is part of it but it is not an excuse,” he said. “We play for a big club and we are expected to win, as we should. We have to work really hard to improve. First game of the season is the first opportunity that we have. If we work as hard as we can now and try to win as many games as we can in pre-season then we will be ready.”
United play Melbourne Victory at the MCG on Friday, having beaten Liverpool 4-0 in their tour opener on Monday in Bangkok. Ten Hag said Harry Maguire was fit enough to play a half after a knock and outlined Donny van de Beek’s strengths. The Dutch midfielder is seeking to finally establish himself after struggling to do so since joining two years ago from Ajax.
Ten Hag, who managed Van de Beek at the Dutch club, said: “Donny’s best [attribute] is his capabilities in the opponent’s box. Playing behind a striker he has a really good smell for being in the right position.”