December 30, 2018
The secret diaries of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must be a treasure trove of do's and don'ts for strikers, and it was tempting to wonder which particular nuggets from their pages the interim Manchester United manager was sharing with Marcus Rashford in training on Friday.
Rashford learns from master at Solskjaers finishing school
Rashford tweeted a picture of himself listening attentively to Solskjaer during a quiet moment together and it was fitting he should accompany the post with an emoji of a headmaster's hat. Hands clasped as Solskjaer spoke, the England forward looked every inch the engrossed pupil hanging off a mentor's every word.
Listening to Solskjaer explain, with great relish, only a few hours earlier how he intends to grow Rashford's confidence and, in turn, sharpen his goal scoring instincts, it is hard to believe the 21-year-old could have asked for a better teacher at this delicate stage of his career. From a young age growing up in Norway, Solskjaer kept comprehensive notes about his highs and lows in front of goal and then later started compiling a detailed diary from his meetings with Bill Beswick, the sports psychologist Alex Ferguson used to employ. In 11 years at United, he scored 126 goals in 366 games, including the instinctive finish that won the club the European Cup in 1999.
His first foray into coaching after retirement was as the first team striker coach to, among others, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez, in 2007/'08 - the season they won a Premier League and Champions League double. Rashford - who has just five goals in 22 appearances this season - is learning from someone with a bible of information to draw from and Solskjaer has already identified the youngster's tendency to snatch at chances as one area ripe for refinement.
"Marcus has got far more than I did in terms of his physical attributes - pace, strength and striking the ball from outside the box - but maybe I can give him a little bit of the nous that I had inside the box," Solskjaer said ahead of this afternoon's game at home to Bournemouth.
Solskjaer says he sees an array of rich attacking talent at United but also a group of forwards with fragile confidence. In that sense, Alexis Sanchez is no different to Rashford, despite the Chilean being nine years his senior, or Romelu Lukaku, another who has struggled badly in front of goal this term. Only Anthony Martial, with eight goals in his last 10 league games, has any scoring form of note.
It was only three weeks ago, when discussing Rashford's lack of goals, that Jose Mourinho claimed finishing was innate - not something that could be worked on.
Solskjaer clearly sees things very differently. "I wasn't born with it," he said. "I studied finishing, I studied goals, I studied movement. I worked on my mentality because that's key. You will always miss chances but you can't do anything about them once they've gone. It's always about the next chance."
Rashford and his fellow strikers should be in good hands.
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