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Why Mbappe should be jealous of Rashford ahead of Man Utd v PSG

When Manchester United were drawn against PSG back in December, it looked like Kylian Mbappé was going to destroy Old Trafford whilst Marcus Rashford would spend the night chasing Thomas Meunier up and down the flank.

The Frenchman was in superb form playing alongside Neymar and Edinson Cavani – and with United playing terribly under José Mourinho as Rashford toiled as a winger – it looked like the tie could be a bit of a bloodbath and a certain mismatch when it came to the two young strikers.

Instead, where we are now, Mbappé is last man standing in terms of PSG strikers and Rashford is in the form of his life.

What a difference a month makes, eh?

Now, obviously no one should be writing off Mbappé. He’s a majestic young striker who has already won consecutive league titles for different clubs and also starred as France won the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The praise for him needs no caveats; he’s world-class. Plain and simple.

In league and Champions League so far in his career he’s played 109 games and scored 60 goals. That’s 0.77 goals per 90 minutes. And he just turned 20 two months ago.

He’s the world’s second-most expensive player for a reason. He’s completed a remarkable 2.76 take-ons per 90 and created 1.91 chances per 90 too, in case you thought he might be some young goal poacher ala Michael Owen.

But whilst he has just turned 20, that also means… well… he’s just turned 20. He’s unlikely to arrive at Old Trafford a one-man army capable of laying waste to Manchester United by himself.

He will still be confident of doing damage to the hosts, especially if Phil Jones and Ashley Young start, and it’s likely that he’ll score, but will that be enough?

Against this current Manchester United side, probably not.

And that’s the rub. When the draw was made, Manchester United were a punching bag there to be right-hooked into oblivion. Had PSG been facing that United then – even with their current injury crisis – Mbappé would have punched that bag right across the room like Captain America at the start of The Avengers.

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But with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replacing José Mourinho, not only are Manchester United a side that Mbappé will be unable to dropkick out of Europe by himself, but there’s a genuine chance that they could win the match and Mbappé might be upstaged by the other young lightning quick striking sensation on the pitch in Rashford.

After a furious debut back in 2016, Rashford endured a frustrating time under Mourinho where he received plenty of time on the pitch but it was in a wide role.

And not a wide role like Mbappé’s at PSG, where he is part of a free-flowing front three in a side that often plays attacking football with him as a focal point.

No, Rashford played wide with the main role of providing width in attack and work in defence. It was a common sight to see Rashford tracking his winger all the way back into the left-back spot.

Now defensive diligence is no bad thing, but when your striking prodigy is constantly spending most of his energy helping to stop opponents rather than being a key piece of your attack, then you’re doing football wrong.

Luckily someone at United realised this and sacked Mourinho. In his wake Solskjaer has taken steps to unleash Rashford to the point where Mbappé will actually have competition for this game.

Sure, career-wise Rashford’s 0.39 goals per 90 can’t match Mbappé’s, neither can his 1.11 chances created per 90 nor his 1.93 take-ons won.

But since Solskjaer has taken charge Rashford’s goal output has increased dramatically, notching six times in eight games (0.8 per 90) and generally just being a thrilling presence at the tip of Solskjaer’s spear, winning Premier League Player of the Month for January.

Mbappé may even look enviously at Rashford’s situation on Tuesday night, as the Englishman will play at the head of a healthy and cohesive side that has an established pattern of play for big games like this.

A pattern of play that will see Rashford link-up with Mbappé’s compatriots Anthony Martial and fellow World Cup winner Paul Pogba to lead the United counter-attack.

Whilst Mbappé has to be a one-man army, Solskjaer has placed Rashford in such a position that he only has to be one part of United’s attack. The Red Devils could drive the ball forward with Martial or Pogba’s dribbling ability, or Jesse Lingard’s sensational movement off the ball.

Rashford, of course, is a hybrid of both types of movement, and his pace and finishing ability will be a superb complement to his talented team-mates and create a whirring red mass that could absolutely devastate Mbappé’s PSG team-mates before they even get a chance to get the ball to him.

After all, Marco Verratti is PSG’s only established midfielder and Lingard has already proven himself capable of sitting on a deep-lying playmaker to stop them orchestrating play.

And if the ball can’t get to Angel Di Maria or Julian Draxler then how does the ball ever get to Mbappé in truly dangerous positions? United aren’t likely to push up and allow Mbappé space in behind to run.

Meanwhile, with Lingard neutering Verratti, United can split strikers Martial and Rashford, drive Pogba up the middle of the pitch and rain hell down upon Gigi Buffon’s goal.

Thiago Silva and co. will need to have the game of their lives in order to keep Rashford from getting good looks at their goal, and even that may not be enough to stop Manchester United and Rashford.

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