Marcus Rashford’s poor form continued with a subdued performance before he was substituted late in Manchester United’s FA Cup win over Aston Villa on Monday.
Interim manager Ralf Rangnick insisted afterwards that Rashford was “trying hard” and training well but admitted a first goal since October – which would be only Rashford’s fourth of the season – would be important to his confidence.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the numbers behind Rashford’s flagging form.
Season of struggle
Rashford has scored only three goals in 15 appearances in all competitions this season, a long way down on his 20-goal form of the past two campaigns, and has added just a solitary assist – for Cristiano Ronaldo in last month’s Premier League win over Arsenal.
While his average appearance is down from just over 77 minutes last season to barely 60 this term, that regression still shows up on a “per 90 minutes” basis, slipping from 0.67 combined goals and assists per 90 to just 0.40.
Underlying that lack of production are his shot statistics, with just 24 total attempts this season and only nine on target.
His shots per 90 figure is similar to last season, 2.39 compared to 2.51, but his accuracy is down from 49.6 per cent of his attempts being on target last season to just 37.5 per cent – meaning he is averaging less than one shot on target every 90 minutes.
Even last season’s respectable numbers represented a drop-off from the previous campaign, with Rashford’s form having been less impressive ever since the 2019-20 season was interrupted by coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
He scored three goals in nine games after the 2019-20 season resumed, in comparison to 14 in 22 appearances beforehand.
Eleven in 37 last season and two in 11 this time around give him a total of 16 goals in 57 league games since the shutdown.
By way of comparison, he played 55 league games across the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons before play was suspended and scored 24 goals in that time, meaning his scoring output has declined by more than a third since the resumption.
His assists have held up better, with nine last season and three post-lockdown in 2019-20, but even taking that into account, his combined goals and assists have slipped slightly from 34 in those previous 55 games to 29 in 57 since lockdown.
What has gone wrong?
Much was made of Rashford’s body language during the Villa match, with former strikers turned BBC pundits Alan Shearer and Dion Dublin among those to suggest the 24-year-old looks as though he is not enjoying his football.
Several factors may be behind his slump, with Rashford nursing a shoulder injury for much of last season and also having to recover from his penalty shoot-out miss for England in last summer’s European Championship final against Italy.
Former United frontman Dublin said on commentary on Monday: “He looks disheartened, I haven’t seen him smile in a long time.”
Rashford’s off-field political campaigning to combat child food poverty and promote literacy, which earned him an MBE in 2020’s Queen’s Birthday Honours, may also have taken a toll and England great Shearer, while recognising Rashford’s injuries and that he seems to be “struggling for confidence”, added: “He’s done amazing work off the pitch but it looks as though everything is a chore, as if he is not enjoying his football.”