"Too often I wasn't in the right headspace," Marcus Rashford lifts lid on last season's struggles and rebirth after 100th Man Utd goal earns victory over West Ham; Gary Neville says Rashford had too much going on off the pitch and had to "simplify life"
Monday 31 October 2022 14:16, UK
Marcus Rashford admitted he wasn't in the right headspace too often last season but is in a much better place after scoring his 100th goal for Manchester United.
Rashford's towering first-half header was the difference against West Ham as United earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory to climb up to fifth in the Premier League.
It was Rashford's seventh goal of the season, two more than he managed throughout an underwhelming 2021/22 campaign during which his future at Old Trafford came under scrutiny.
But after becoming only the 22nd player to score 100 goals for Manchester United, Rashford insists that challenging period is firmly behind him.
"It's a complete different energy around the club and the training ground," Rashford told Sky Sports. "That puts me in a better headspace and I just feel really motivated now. That's the area I was struggling in.
"I was struggling at times with more mental things. It wasn't really my own performance but other things off the pitch. That's the biggest difference from last season.
"I get that it's your job to speak about what happens on the pitch but for the players we have to get into the right headspace for every game.
"Too often last season, I wasn't in the right headspace for games. I wasn't surprised by some of the stuff that was happening."
Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville believes Rashford's commendable work away from football started to have an impact on his performances on the pitch and that the time had come for change.
"It is stark to hear Rashford say I wasn't in the right headspace going into a match," Neville said. "There's no doubt there was too much being put into his head off the pitch. Too much. Sometimes you have to simplify your life.
"He's doing so much good off the pitch, it's incredible what he's achieving but there comes a point where your bread and butter is your football and I suspect people off the pitch who are close to him, who are probably just pulling him away a little bit from his core, which is his football. That's where he's talking about his head space. For me he's got that back."
Neville continued: "There were people that thought he'd have to move away from Manchester United. I thought that would be a shame and hoped that the moment would come back where you'd see him confident again.
"There were moments when he's running with real power and strength and flow… but there were times last year where he'd get in that position and he was hesitant and he'd pass it back and take the easy option.
"There were also moments last year, when Ronaldo was available, he'd pass it to him like he was subservient to him. I feel now he's willing to take [responsibility] and then play him in when he needs to."
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp, who was advocating for Rashford to galvanise his career away from Old Trafford, is hopeful Manchester United can continue utilising the wealth of attributes the 24-year-old possesses.
"'I wasn't mentally right' - when do you really hear a player ever say that?" Redknapp said. "We expect them to be mentally right, ready for the game. He wasn't in the right head space.
"If you look at his attributes, he possesses everything. He can jump, he can run with the ball, he's got a ferocious shot, he can take free-kicks… if Manchester United can't get the best out of this player, that's a crime.
"I know you have to do it yourself, but you have to find ways of getting someone to produce that level. He has everything. He can play off either side.
"When I felt he might leave the club, he'd have gone somewhere else and thrived and been an absolute star. But now it looks like Man Utd can get that out of him."
Academy graduate Rashford, a day before his 25th birthday and in front of England manager Gareth Southgate, was a fitting match-winner on the day Manchester United's record of featuring a homegrown player in every matchday squad extended to 85 years.
"I think we make a great goal," United boss Erik ten Hag added. "It was magnificent, the pass from Christian Eriksen and then the header was really a hammer from Marcus Rashford.
"It's so great as it's a player out of the academy scoring his 100th goal and the 85th anniversary today.
"He's really representing the work of Manchester United, and it values the good work that the academy is doing. And Marcus Rashford, tomorrow is his 25th birthday as well. A great present I would say!"