It feels quite astounding that Marcus Rashford’s man of the match performance over Manchester City on Saturday was his 127th Premier League outing for his boyhood club.
After all, it only seems a short while since the Wythenshawe-born striker burst onto the scene as a sprightly 18-year-old, notching two braces in the space of a few days against Midtjylland and Arsenal.
That was in February 2016, and since then plenty of expectation has been heaped on the young man’s shoulders to be the talisman that can lead United to glory in an era that has been largely disappointing post-Sir Alex Ferguson.
Marcus Rashford’s man of the match display on Saturday was his 127th Premier League game
The 22-year-old extended his goals tally to 13 goals in all competitions this season
Former United boss Louis van Gaal, who handed Rashford his debut over three years ago, hailed the youngster as one of the most special talents he has ever brought through.
‘I believe in young players, and at all my clubs I have given them a chance, even when I started out at AZ Alkmaar,’ he said in April 2016.
‘Then I went to Ajax and Kluivert, 18 years old, gave the same sort of performances as we are seeing from Rashford. I can give a lot of other examples of the same thing. Müller at Bayern, Xavi and Iniesta at Barcelona. Age is not the issue, quality is more important.’
It doesn’t feel all that long ago since Rashford burst onto the scene at Manchester United
Former United boss Louis van Gaal hailed Rashford as one of the most special talents he’s worked with
It’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of prematurely comparing talented youngsters to the superstar icons football has been blessed with in years gone by. Comparisons are made all the easier when both players have played for the same club, and in Cristiano Ronaldo, lofty expectations have been cast onto the 22-year-old to be the superstar United have long yearned for.
But perhaps it isn’t all too foolish to dig deeper into a Rashford-Ronaldo comparison. United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not consider it a stretch to earmark the England international as the heir apparent to the Portuguese supremo’s throne.
‘It’s very easy to compare the two of them, yes,’ he said after United’s 2-1 win over arch rivals City. ‘Both with skills, body shape, attitude, attributes – everything. The boy has every chance in the world to become a top, top player. Let’s hope he continues like this.’
Current United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer compared Rashford with Cristiano Ronaldo
Solskjaer (left) played with Ronaldo (second left) while the pair were at Old Trafford together
And, quite surprisingly, Marcus Rashford’s statistics after 127 Premier League games compared to those of United’s former number 7 make for very interesting reading.
Despite arriving from Portugal as an exciting, albeit unknown, quantity in 2003, Sir Alex Ferguson was not hesitant in throwing a young Cristiano Ronaldo straight into the heart of his famed side. 94 of Ronaldo’s 127 league appearances were starts.
Meanwhile, Rashford has made eight fewer with 86 – perhaps owing to the continuous change of manager at Old Trafford meaning he was favoured by some more than others.
Rashford’s (left) statistics after 127 Premier League games compared to Cristiano Ronaldo (right) make for interesting reading
The Portuguese star made more starts and played more minutes owing to consistency during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign
That’s also reflected in minutes played, with Ronaldo playing a combined 8,924 minutes to Rashford’s 8,110. The 814 minute difference equates to roughly nine games.
Most interestingly, in those 127 Premier League games Rashford has found the net on three more occasions than his Portuguese counterpart, scoring 37 goals to Ronaldo’s 34. Add that to minutes played, and Ronaldo scored a goal every 262 minutes to Rashford’s goal every 219.
Ronaldo also had almost double the amount of shots on goal to Rashford, too, striking 471 attempts to Rashford’s 256. That means that the Englishman’s short conversion rate is double that of Ronaldo, at 14.5 to 7.2.
It should be noted, though, that Rashford has been played through the middle as the leading forward for United as well as out wide on the left, while Ronaldo played solely on the wing under Ferguson.
Ronaldo was also surrounded by world class team-mates who helped him develop his game
Rashford, meanwhile, has excelled in a struggling team as United flounder post-Ferguson
With the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Carlos Tevez surrounding him, it is hardly surprising that Ronaldo trumps Rashford with assists. He provided 22 for his team-mates while the 22-year-old laid on 18 assists for Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and co.
And the key factor to consider when comparing these statistics is the state of play at Manchester United during Rashford and Ronaldo’s respective tenures at the club.
Constant managerial change, disarray at the top of the hierarchy at Old Trafford as well as underperforming team-mates are all factors that would understandably stump the progress of any youngster coming through the ranks, and yet Marcus Rashford is defying the odds with consistent top level performances.
United’s dominance in the noughties provided a settled platform for Ronaldo to perform
Constant managerial change, disarray behind the scenes and poor team-mates should have stumped Rashford’s growth, but he continues to perform
There is still an overwhelming feeling of any Ronaldo-Rashford comparison being slightly premature, given the Portuguese’s all-conquering supremacy, alongisde Lionel Messi, for the best part of a decade. It should also be remembered that, following his world-record move to Real Madrid, Ronaldo’s statistics skyrocketed to levels football has never seen before.
But after 127 Premier League games Marcus Rashford seems well on his way to making history of his own.