Erik ten Hag believes Marcus Rashford is in the “best place” to realize his ambitions as the Manchester United boss looks to build a team that can conquer England and Europe.
The Old Trafford giants are synonymous with trophies but have only won three major trophies since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as Premier League champions in 2013.
United have struggled for most of that time and are in the midst of their worst trophy drought in 40 years, having failed to win a trophy since lifting the Europa League in 2017.
But there is a sense of positivity and progress under the summer appointment of Ten Hag as he prepares for Wednesday’s first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final at Nottingham Forest.
A rejuvenated Rashford has been key to this revival of fortunes and negotiations are underway for a new deal with the native star’s current contract ending in 18 months.
“Talks between clubs and players are confidential,” said Ten Hag. I think he understands that Man United is his club. This first.
“But also in this environment, in this team, I think he is playing his best football. He’s getting better and that’s about him because he’s working on good things.
“He gives 100 percent energy, has a good plan and I think he can bring his qualities to this team as well.
“So this team can help him get in the right position and score the goals he is good at.
“This team is structured that way, that’s where its characteristics come from and I think he knows that, but definitely yes, he’s important to us.
“If we want the success we want, we need it.”
Rashford has scored 17 goals in all competitions for United this season and shone for England at the World Cup when Paris St Germain publicly confirmed their interest in him.
“Hopefully the clubs will take an interest in all our players because it means we are doing a good job, the team is performing better, so that’s what we’re aiming for,” said Ten Hag.
“Then I’d say it’s the best place because we want to build the best team, first in England, then Europe and then the world.”
Rashford has a crucial role to play as United continue to struggle on four fronts with an attack that lacks depth and often finds itself without Anthony Martial.
The French international had a season interrupted by injuries and together with Jadon Sancho and Diogo Dalot he will not play in the match against Forest.
Ten Hag says “bad luck” has a role to play in Martial’s frequent absences, but says he “needs to be more available” if the team is to progress.
“When he’s there, he’s really important to us because we play the best football when it’s available,” he said. “He must be aware of that too. So if you want to be successful, we need it.”
Casemiro returns to the squad after being suspended for Sunday’s 3-2 defeat to top-flight Arsenal where fellow Brazilian Antony was withdrawn in the second half.
The winger has yet to hit the strips since his big-money summer switch from Ajax and the 22-year-old said on Tuesday he is “trying to evolve to give the team the best of everything”.
“I don’t think he loses games,” said Ten Hag of a player he knows better than most.
“When he plays, the team wins and that already sends a message, I think how well he plays.
“It can do better. I see room for improvement. For example, we want it to be more direct, more involved.
“But like I said, the team plays better when he’s on the pitch and that’s a good thing. This is a good base for further building.
“I think he’s already improved. He scored a few goals – he scored three in his first three games, now he’s scoring against Everton and Charlton.
“He has an impact, but I think with his capabilities, with his talents, he can do even more.”