Marcus Rashford feels Manchester United are finally “back to normal” after a period of instability at the club.
Ahead of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first full season as manager, United remained unbeaten in pre-season, following a sixth-place finish last term.
In the eyes of Rashford, a structure is now in place at Old Trafford to allow the club to succeed, and despite praising both Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho for the role they played in starting his career, he feels Solskjaer strikes the perfect balance.
Man Utd vs Chelsea
August 11, 2019, 4:00pm
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports ahead of their season opener against Chelsea on Super Sunday, Rashford said: “You learn different things under different managers. The time under Van Gaal, it was perfect for me at that time to have a manager like that, he was patient with me and gave me time to learn the game. It wasn’t too much information thrown at me.
“Then under Jose I feel like we all understood the game a bit better, especially defensively. And now under Ole we’re trying to combine the two, and at the same time he knows the club for what the club is so he can spread his own messages too. For me it’s like it’s back to normal, and that is the most important thing.
“We didn’t have much stability – I think it’s easily done – whether it was the team, the squad, or the manager, the staff. There was never much solidity, and I think it’s tough to play under those circumstances. But the structure seems to be in place so we can concentrate on ourselves and push forward.”
United’s unbeaten pre-season, plus the signing of Harry Maguire on a world-record fee from Leicester, has left those around the club optimistic ahead of the new campaign as they look to return to the top four as a minimum.
Rashford insists that, after a pre-season without a major tournament for most of the squad, the players’ fitness is far better than it was at this stage last year, and that the team have taken strides in terms of training intensity.
“It’s been good. It’s been tough, but as a team I feel we’ve taken a lot of strides forward, so it’s been worth it.”
Asked how the pre-season differs to that under Mourinho, Rashford said: “I’d say the intensity change, from how we were towards the end of last season, to where we are now. It’s so clear to see the difference in terms of intensity, especially without the ball. That’s where we’ve taken a lot of strides forward.
“It definitely feels different. For starters, physically we’re at a much better position than we were this time last year, going into the season. We’re already three or four steps ahead of where we were last season, and now it’s about putting the fundamentals down about how we’re going to play.”
Rashford enjoyed his best season in terms of Premier League goals, netting 10 for United last term, but that came amid periods of inconsistency under both Mourinho and Solskjaer.
The 22-year-old will get more time as a central striker after the departure of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan, but Rashford says his consistency needs to improve.
“Personally I think last season was up and down for me, and for the team as well. We had a good spell in the middle, and the beginning and end were not the best. It’s about a consistency, and it’s the same for me as an individual.
“I think positionally my role will be the same, a bit here and a bit there, left, centre, right, and for me that’s the ideal way. Obviously with the characteristics of the other forwards, it suits and we compliment each other.
“For me it’s not about being in one position, it’s about having freedom as a three to be together, and rotate where you see fit. It’s just important you fill the positions defensively, so without the ball we need to fill the three positions, but with the ball we can go wherever we want.”
Watch Manchester United vs Chelsea on Sunday, August 11 on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League; Kick-off is at 4.30pm