New signing Dan James has proved two points over the opening month. Firstly that he is good enough for Manchester United, and secondly that his best position is left wing.
James’ form of three goals in four games makes him undroppable right now, and also presents Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a dilemma.
With James on the left, it becomes difficult to fit both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial into the same team.
Rashford and Martial both scored into double figures last season and United have higher hopes this year, that each can pass the 20 goal mark.
They have shown promising signs playing together, but this has come when one has been a striker, and the other lined up on the left. James’ emergence there provides United with questions.
The obvious solution is to move one of Martial and Rashford to the right wing, a position where there is no obvious solution.
Start Martial up front and Rashford RW: This makes most sense, for Rashford to shift out to the right. His versatility can be an asset rather than a problem.
Start Rashford up front and Martial RW: Martial is also versatile, but moving him back out wide would seem like a backwards step. He has just moved back into a central striker role, and needs a proper run there.
Move James back to RW: There is a case to simply keep Rashford on the left and tell James to develop his game on the right. It is not ideal, but it might pay to keep opponents guessing.
What about Greenwood?
Mason Greenwood is ready for opportunities, and he can play both up front as a striker and on the right wing.
He may be better suited to the right wing position than Marcus Rashford, having shown in pre-season he can score from the position.
If he gets a chance there and seizes it, then there is a possibility Rashford does not get into United’s front three, with James, Martial and Greenwood becoming first choice.
This is a decision Solskjaer must be prepared to take, regardless of Rashford’s status in the team and wages.
United are looking good for options on the left, thanks to James, and Tahith Chong, who counts this as his best position.
A right winger is essential in the transfer market next summer. Jadon Sancho is the dream option.
This makes the competition for a striker spot more intense, with Martial, Rashford and Greenwood all hoping to be first choice. Competition for places can be a positive for United.
In the mean time, United need to work with what they have, and this means finding a role for their best attackers. Getting them on the pitch, rather than the bench, is the first step, and that means they must all be versatile.
Rashford must buy in
Marcus Rashford is the most likely option of Martial and James to play out on the right, as the other two are more settled in their positions.
If he wants to play regularly, Rashford needs to embrace playing out on the right, rather than take a 50-50 split with Martial up front.
This can also help him for England too, with Harry Kane a clear first choice striker.
Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho have relegated Rashford to the bench there, but if he can develop out wide at United, he can only help his cause.
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